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Is the ‘evangelical’ label worth preserving or nah?

Religious right protests Atlanta's Pride Parade, 2017 (Image courtesy of Tom Driggers - Via Flickr creative commons - http://bit.ly/2GIrVPM)

A few years ago, I began researching a book, “Learning to Speak God from Scratch,” on the decline of sacred words and spiritual conversations in the Western world. I became convinced that most of the terms in the vocabulary of faith are worth preserving –though many need to be reimagined.

Following the election of Donald Trump, I noticed that many religious leaders were less inclined to use the word “evangelical” to describe themselves even though they fit the dictionary definition. As someone who feels increasingly disenfranchised by “Trumpvangelicals,” I can sympathize with this impulse. But I also wonder whether there is more life left in the “evangelical” label. Should we abandon it or work to revive it?

To answer this question, I spoke with Dr. John Stackhouse, a professor of religious studies at Crandall University and author of Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World who still uses that label to describe himself. As a Canadian and an evangelical theologian, I thought he might have some unique perspectives. Here we discuss what the term means and why he thinks it is worth fighting for.

RNS: Let’s start by defining terms. How do you define “evangelical?”

JS: “Evangelical” just means “of the gospel” or the good news of God saving the world through Jesus Christ. Alas, those who append this lovely word to themselves often mean to imply, “We’re of the gospel—and you, or those people over there, aren’t.” Thus it has been used to distinguish Protestants from Catholics in the 16th century; warm-hearted and observant Protestants from cold-hearted and desultory Protestants in the 18th; Bible- and Jesus- and evangelism-focused Anglican Protestants from tradition- and religion- and propriety-focused Anglican Protestants in the 19th; and warm-hearted, observant Protestants focused on Jesus who steer by the Bible while trying to become holy and convert everyone else in the 20th.

Only in the United States does “evangelical” primarily mean “white Protestants descended from fundamentalists who want to re-convert America and then use its influence to convert the rest of the world.”

RNS: There is a trend right now in which evangelical Christians are rejecting the label “evangelical.” Blogger Trevin Wax calls this the “evangelical identity crisis.” Why is this occurring?

JS: The identity crisis comes from having their identity linked to Donald Trump, of course—which, if you give him 80% of your vote, is what happens. Evangelicals now have to say, “Well, no, we don’t like this and this and this, and we really hate that and that. But we do like thus and so, and we absolutely love such-and-such.” It was far, far easier to just say, “We’re like Billy Graham!” But now we’ve got Franklin and the other members of Trump’s evangelical curia, so it makes the identity question…complicated.

RNS: You’ve chosen to hang onto the label. Why?

JS: It helps to be Canadian. Canadian evangelicalism experienced a bit of fundamentalism, but fundamentalism hasn’t overshadowed the whole tradition as it has in the U.S. International evangelicalism, as seen in bodies like the World Evangelical Alliance (until recently, led by a Canadian), the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, and the Lausanne Committee do have to deal with massive American influence. But, on the whole, they maintain a healthier balance: one that retains the focus on personal piety and friendly evangelism typical of the eighteenth-century roots of the movement in people like John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards.

RNS: But what is wrong with someone rejecting the label because of what it has come to mean?

JS: Labels are just tools: If it works for you, use it. If not, then don’t. I don’t use it when I’m pretty sure it’s going to misrepresent me in this or that conversation or group. But it’s a pretty good label for a genuine phenomenon: this distinctive kind of Protestantism that emerges out of Puritanism (in Britain) and Pietism (on the Continent), blossoms in the trans-Atlantic revivals of the eighteenth century, and carries on to this day in varied but related streams. If we drop “evangelical” as a descriptive term because of political poisoning, okay, but we’ll have to find another one, because there is something there that needs a label.

RNS: It seems to me that the meaning of a word is comprised of both a definition and connotation. You seem to value the definition, but some people are reacting against the connotation. That is, the negative associations that have been strapped to this word. Are you talking about different things?

JS: Identifying a movement by what strikes you as most interesting (most admirable, most terrifying, most ugly) is one way to pick it out, but another is to see it on its own terms, calming down one’s emotional reaction to analyze what’s actually there. So, yes, I’m using the term as one does in the quiet of the historian’s study. But I sympathize with those are triggered by it to blast off in rage about the excesses of the prosperity gospel, racist and sexist elements in evangelicalism, and, of course, the current U. S. president.

I’m reminded of a scholar of John Calvin, who taught at a Calvinist school and belonged to a Calvinist church, finishing a public lecture once and fielding this question from the audience: “So are you a Calvinist?”

He wisely paused, and then replied, “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean someone who enjoys worshiping a God who delights in damning babies to hell.”

“Oh. Well, then, no. I’m not a Calvinist. And neither was John Calvin.”

RNS: There is a racial problem with this term, isn’t there? “Evangelical” commonly refers to white evangelicals and leaves out many Black, Latinx, Asians, and others who share similar beliefs. How do you address this problem?

JS: Again, this is a much more acute problem in America than elsewhere. I don’t mean to deny Canada’s chequered past when it comes to relations between white and non-white evangelicals, but it isn’t nearly as major part of our story. In fact, despite some horrific history of forcible residential schooling of First Nations children, our native population is now significantly more evangelical than is the white. Asian-Canadian evangelicals have significant presence in evangelical organizations alongside whites. And black evangelicals are simply not numerous in our country outside some historic churches in the Maritimes.

In the United States, however, there are still divides that keep large populations of blacks, Latinx, Asians, and others apart from the networks and fellowships of white evangelicals. I’m glad for the signs that that’s been changing positively especially over the last generation, and it remains to be seen whether the Trump phenomenon will help or hurt attempts to connect evangelicals across these lines. It hasn’t been a good start, that’s for sure.

RNS: In the book Still Evangelical?, Mark Young writes that most Americans perceive modern evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism to be one in the same, but he says, they are not. What are the differences in your mind?

JS: George Marsden’s magisterial study, Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford, 1980), helped us see that “evangelicalism” is a big Venn circle with “fundamentalism” a smaller circle within it—even as fundamentalists themselves would cry, “We’re not with you!”

Fundamentalism was more-or-less a synonym for evangelicalism until the 1920s, and even into the 1950s in Britain, Canada, and elsewhere. After the infamous Scopes “Monkey Trial” of 1925, however, American fundamentalism rapidly lost public prestige and increasingly came to resemble the caricatures sketched by H. L. Mencken and other hostile journalists at the time. From a northern, urban, sophisticated movement of people concerned about certain modern trends in American Christianity it became southern, rural, and anti-intellectual with a phobia of everything “worldly.”

Militant separatism became its hallmark and, as Joel Carpenter and others have shown, fundamentalists got busy through mid-century erecting an entire parallel culture of schools, colleges, denominations, missions, and other organizations to replace the ones they lost.

Billy Graham thus became the defining figure for evangelicals in this as in many other respects. He believed and preached what the fundamentalists believed and preached, but he welcomed non-evangelicals onto the platforms of his huge public meetings. That the fundamentalists could neither understand nor abide.

Jerry Falwell’s move in the late 1970s, therefore, to bring fundamentalists back into the cultural-political contest for America’s soul is one of the most important events in American history. I’m not kidding. Falwell helped re-engage millions of previously alienated citizens in American public life, and every election since 1980 bears marks of that change. Fundamentalists nowadays are still militant, but, as the alliance of Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Donald Trump proves, they’re now apparently willing to work with anybody who can advance their interests.

RNS: Some have talked about a split between “elite evangelicals” and “ordinary evangelicals.” They point out that real divide is between the professional, educated, leadership class and those who are church-attending, pew-sitting, Trump-voting evangelicals. What do you think?

JS: As an elite evangelical who despises Donald Trump, of course I’d like to think that all right-thinking people agree with me! But I’d have to see serious data to believe that. I know too many college-educated American evangelicals who held their noses and voted for Trump to believe that class is the main dividing line here.

Image courtesy of Oxford Press

RNS: Look into the future and tell me what you see. What does the future of evangelicalism in the Western world look like in 25 years? 

JS: The Western world is pretty big, and evangelicalism is going to proceed apace, no matter what happens in the U.S. Continued immigration of fervent Christian Koreans and Chinese people throughout the Anglosphere and beyond is going to revitalize and reshape evangelical fellowships heretofore dominated by people of northwest European heritage. Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity is going to mature: last summer I enjoyed discussion with serious people about theological education at, of all places, Hillsong (the hipster megachurch in Sydney, Australia). And the prosperity gospel is going to continue to confuse and distract people from authentic Christianity, even as many will tire of its nonsense and then, I hope, seek out a realistic form of faith.

Evangelicalism is a populist tradition, so big churches and big-name pastors will keep setting the pace. But when those pastors look more like New York’s Tim Keller, Chicago’s Bill Hybels, and Atlanta’s Andy Stanley, and less like the abrasive Mark Driscoll and the heavy-handed John Piper, there are grounds for hope that even mainstream white evangelical culture can improve.

RNS: You’ve written a book on ethics. That is, how to live rightly. What advice would you give your fellow evangelicals on how to live the Christian life in our current moment?

JS: The best thing about evangelicalism is its relentless focus on Jesus Christ. Not on “God-in-general” or even on the define-him-however-you-like Holy Spirit, but the very particular person of Jesus Christ. The next best thing about evangelicalism is its commitment to the Bible. If the Bible really says it, I will try to believe it, and that should settle it.

The combination of a Christ-centred piety and a Scripture-centred epistemology is a powerful and healthy alternative to what else is being offered out there. I certainly don’t mean to reduce Christianity to just Jesus and Bible. But evangelicalism in my view puts first things first.

And a lot of interesting ethical conclusions can be derived from those commitments, as I detail in this book—such as, for instance, grounds for dealing with corrupt regimes, with stupid bosses, with frustrating institutions, and with murderous enemies. Not platitudes, nor even a set of subtle principles, but actually hearing, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wanted us to do, the voice of Jesus here and now so as to do what he wants us to do.

And that, as the great evangelical preacher John Stott used to say, is just basic Christianity.

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.

193 Comments

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  • “The best thing about evangelicalism is its relentless focus on Jesus Christ.”

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    If only that were true, we wouldn’t have 2Rump as a president right now, I’d say it’s relentless focus is on power, money, dominion, and revenge, but then, I’m not an evangelical with a book to sell or a reputation to try to salvage.

  • IF as you say “that is just basic Christianity” why do you need a label that attempts to separate you from “basic Christianity”?

  • Word, ‘yo. The word Evangelical isn’t like the word gay. Nor its fate, respectively. Trump & his Christian nationalists may give Evangelicals a bad name, and they do, but no true, i.e. fired-up & die-hard, disciple of THE Christ Jesus shall ever stop calling themselves Evangelical. I certainly won’t. But catch any one of them in a state of happiness, then go and ask them, Hey, you’re gay? You know what they’ll say? This: I know what you mean but no offense, it’s just that I’m happy but not gay.

  • You’re right. There’s nothing discernibly “basic” about Christianity & Christians since Day One.

    On 2nd thought, isn’t that why “label” & “label[ling]” come handy-dandy?

  • Which in this case, though, if you go by the tone of the interviewer in contrast with the interviewee-wee, it’s our brother Jonathan Merritt who’s actually “try[ing hard not] to salvage.”

  • In the 1950s my late father was proud to call himself a minister in the evangelical wing of the CofE.

    I’m pretty sure he would struggle with seeing (his vision of) Christ in many of those who use the “e” word today.

  • Again, why the discussion is moot:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • Call yourself what you want…The majority will still oppose fundamentalistevangelical views & your intent to impose those views on others via law & government. By discrediting others beliefs and believing they have the only true belief, evangelicals show the world that they don’t really believe what they say they do & they jeapodize everyone’s religious freedoms. So call your self something else if you want…Your actions speak louder than your label ever could.

  • The designation is important. How would I know who to even talk to without it? I do not hate all Christians. How can I when I have so many friends who actually go to church? But they are not evangelicals. In fact, they disclaimer them. So we must know who are, so we do not waste our time with them.

  • Everyone dies, dear. And I’m not mocking, just reporting. Just like you’re not judging, just reporting.

    Too bad you and your fellow travelers can’t make a better case for christianity than you do. You’re failing badly in the great commission. So youblame the people whom you cannot convince for your failures, and threaten them with your god’s vengeance.

    Way to go..

    Have a nice day.

  • (Correction, then. And thanks for the much anticipated one-liner from you!)

    Word, ‘yo. The word Evangelical isn’t like the word gay. Nor its fate, respectively. Trump & his Christian nationalists may give Evangelicals a bad name, and they do, although not necessarily worse, according to tatoo, than when “Evangelicals got a bad name way before Trump”; but no true, i.e. fired-up & die-hard, disciple of THE Christ Jesus shall ever stop calling themselves Evangelical. I certainly won’t. But catch any one of them in a state of happiness, then go and ask them, Hey, you’re gay? You know what they’ll say? This: I know what you mean but no offense, it’s just that I’m happy but not gay.

  • … and, per my lead-in comment, gay is just another word for …. (You have 24 hours to fill in the blank. GO!) Otherwise, here’s a collection of CONFLICTING perceptions, courtesy of the internet. Learn something, ‘bruh! Or nothing!

    (1) “Evangelical is just another word for bigoted racist person perpetually claiming moral highground”.

    (2) “Evangelical is just another word for love”.

    (3) “‘Evangelical’ … is nearly synonymous with ‘hypocrite.'”

    (4) “Evangelical is just another word for hypocrite.”

    (5) “‘Evangelical’ is just another word for ‘religious fanatic'”.

    (6) “Evangelical is just another word for nutcase in my book.”

    (7) “‘Evangelical’ is just another word for ‘gospeller,’ one who affirms the good news of Jesus Christ as set forth in the Bible.”

    (8) “Evangelical is just another word for stupid.”

    (9) “Evangelical” means “of or according to the teaching of the gospel or the Christian religion.” Or, “of or denoting a tradition within Protestant Christianity emphasizing the authority of the Bible, personal conversion, and the doctrine of salvation by faith in the Atonement.” Or, “zealous in advocating or supporting a particular cause.”

    (10) “Evangelical” means “belonging to one of the Protestant Churches or Christian groups that believe the teaching of the Bible and persuading other people to join them to be extremely important”. Or, “having very strong beliefs and often trying to persuade other people to have the same beliefs”.

  • Evangelicals are simply stupid deluded as​sholes. That is all there is to it. It’s time to say so.

  • There are no facts for atheism. Its a preference claim and nothing more. The atheist has to deny reality so she can pretend there is no God.

  • There are no facts for Christianity, just belief. It is a preference claim and nothing more. The Christian has to deny reality so that he can pretend that out of the thousands of the gods of men, he can pretend that he has the only real one.

    That is how your thinking, such as it is, works.

  • There are no facts for atheism, just a lack of belief. It is a preference claim and nothing more. The atheist has to deny a divinity so that he can pretend he is the only real one.

  • As a non-believer who is very concerned about this phenomenon, I prefer the term Christian Nationalist. I see this as describing a religious/political movement that strives to replace our supposedly secular republic with a Christian Theocracy. They psychologically live in an alternative world they often call “the kingdom of God.” For them the Bible is the source of all truth.
    They claim this planet is only 6 thousand years old. Evolutionary science is not true. They offer “alternative facts” derived from creationism or intelligent design. They discredit all science that disagrees with their interpretation of their bible or the interpretation of their leaders. They have incorporated the necessity for uncontrolled capitalism into their religious faith. They believe the “End Times” are approaching. They are not willing to protect this planet against the coming disaster caused by human activity and consumption. For them God is in control and the coming of this disaster is up to His will. They arrogantly intend to use the state to aid the enforcement of their social and religious values on everyone. They would like to privatize all functions of our government except the military, the police, and the Justice department. All welfare functions should be accomplished through charity.

    Politically they have melded Libertarianism and national xenophobic extremism into their religion. They see this nation pitted against the rest of the world, thus “America First”.

    Christian Nationalists as described above are not all Evangelicals nor are all Evangelicals Christian Nationalists. However most Christian Nationalists are Evangelicals and most Evangelicals are Christian Nationalists. They are politically aligned with right wing Catholics, Mormons, the wealthy, the libertarians and some white workers.

  • Wrong

    Atheism does not deny divinity. There are a few anti-theists who will claim “there is no god”. To most atheists denying the possibility of something that someone might define as a “god” is a s silly as claiming to know that there is one – whichever variety the ridiculous claim is made for.

    Most atheists are agnostic atheists – we see neither any valid evidence nor any rational need for the existence of god(s) so we assume they probably don’t exist and get on with the one life we know we have. (God is a different thing – the Abrahamic God is rationally impossible – see Epicurus).

    How do you get to “pretend he is the only real one”? – I rejected solipsism in my early teens (not because I couldn’t disprove it but because it is impossible to disprove)!

    Please learn the meaning of the words you use before you use them.

  • Well, finally you almost understand. I don’t have to deny a divinity. I’m still waiting for one— among the thousands of gods of men— to show up convincingly.

    Jesus on a taco doesn’t cut it.

  • Really? Much of it? The choirs of angels, the virgin birth, the resurrection, the annunciation, the transfiguration, the raising of the dead, the empty tomb, dead people walking around Jerusalem, Paul chasing a flying magician around, and the letter where Paul says there are forged letters of his?

    Oh, you mean the important stuff.

  • Ask the atheist because atheists believe:

    1. Order came from disorder
    2. Uniformity came from the accidental
    3. Intelligence came from non-intelligence
    4. Design came from chaos
    5. Personality came from non-personality
    6. Love came from hard matter
    7. Something came from nothing
    8. Life has no ultimate purpose
    9. No grounding for morality. No right or wrong.
    10. Man is just a meat machine.

  • Take the resurrection of Christ. It is one of the best attested facts of the ancient world. It has never been disproven by any facts.

  • And there you have it. One of the best attested facts inthe ancient world, a fact that appears no where outside of the New Testament, which itself didn’t appear until some decades after the alleged fact.

    Ok, then.perhaps you will grace us with a list of sources.

  • First you would have to show that the gospels are not historical with facts. That has never been done. Lets take Luke as a historian. He wrote his gospel and Acts. Here is what is said about him:
    “Based on his accurate description of towns, cities and islands, as well as correctly naming various official titles, archaeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote that “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy… [he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[32] Professor of Classics at Auckland University, E.M. Blaiklock, wrote: “For accuracy of detail, and for evocation of atmosphere, Luke stands, in fact, with Thucydides. The Acts of the Apostles is not shoddy product of pious imagining, but a trustworthy record… it was the spadework of archaeology which first revealed the truth.”[33] New Testament scholar Colin Hemer has made a number of advancements in understanding the historical nature and accuracy of Luke’s writings.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_the_Evangelist

  • There are over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus’
    death which mention his existence and record many events of his life.
    9 Traditional New Testament Authors
    Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude.

    20 Early Christian Writers Outside the New Testament
    Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum.

    4 Heretical Writings
    Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and Treatise on Resurrection.

    9 Secular Sources
    Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed
    slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar Serapion
    (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallus.

    In comparison, let’s take a look at Julius Caesar, one of Rome’s most prominent figures. Caesar is well known for his military conquests. After his Gallic Wars, he made the famous statement, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Only five sources report his military conquests: writings by Caesar himself, Cicero, Livy, the Salona Decree, and Appian. If Julius Caesar really made a profound impact on Roman society, why didn’t more writers of antiquity mention his great military accomplishments? No one questions whether Julius did make a tremendous impact on the Roman Empire. It is evident that he did. Yet in those 150 years after his death, more non-Christian authors alone comment on Jesus than all of the sources who mentioned Julius Caesar’s great military conquests within 150 years of his death.
    Did Jesus ever exist? by Ryan Turner

  • It is neither.

    Atheism is not a claim that no gods exist and it is not a preference – it is, for me, an inevitable consequence of what I am and seventy years life experience. I can no more become a believer than become a unicorn – it really is that inescapable.

    Atheism is the absence of belief (for or against) in god(s). That’s all. In my experience most atheists are, like me, unable to believe in something(s) for which we can find no reason to believe – no evidence that stands up to critical questioning and no rational reason why there need be god(s).

    I accept that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” – but I also accept that the responsibility for justifying or destroying a claim lies with those who make the claim rather than those who don’t accept it as valid. If it didn’t we would all have to accept every claim until it was disproven – and some, like the existence of something unknowable (invisible, insubstantial, inaudible etc etc.) cannot be disproven. It is possible to reason that many of those not-disproven beliefs are incompatible and therefore all but at most one are wrong but that doesn’t help identify which, if any, may be valid.

    For me the question is ” why would someone believe in something that demands that they divert their time, effort, emotions and money from creating the best life possible for them, their loved ones, humanity and the world which future generations will be forced to inherit in order that their (unevidenced) immortal soul reaches an (unevidenced) eternity in an (unevidenced) heaven? It seems to me that it is, as they say, a no-brainer.

  • “First you would have to show that the gospels are not historical with facts”

    Actually no – you are making the claim (that the gospels are historically accurate) so the responsibility is on you to demonstrate that every event in them happened as described. Otherwise you have to disprove or believe the historicity of every non-Christian scripture (there are thousands).

    As it happens though………..

    It’s interesting that you cite Luke.

    The Gospel According to Luke wasn’t written by someone who knew Jesus. Using Luke’s name was a bit of later first century marketing.

    “Luke” talks about Jesus being born in Bethlehem because of a census. This is historically inaccurate. It didn’t happen.

    1 – Herod died in what we call 3 BCE
    2 – Quirenius was appointed in 6 CE after Herod’s son had fouled up and lost control of the part of his father’s kingdom that the Romans had entrusted to him.
    3 – Quirenius instigated a census which took place around 7 CE.
    4 – The Romans took a census by sending officials to each house and assessing its taxable worth – they weren’t stupid enough to ask people to travel 70 miles so that they could tell lies with impunity.
    5 – Nazareth was not involved in the census – it was outside Herod the less’s territory.

    And the cherry on the icing? – jewish scholars are clear that the verse (Micah 5:2) which is usually seen as the prophecy that the trip to Bethlehem is supposed to have fulfilled has nothing to do with the Messiah – it foresees the emergence of a temporal warrior leader who will liberate the occupied homeland of the Jews.

    “First you would have to show that the gospels are not historical with facts” – Done.

  • Most of ancient history was not written by eyewitnesses. The earliest bio of Alexander the Great was written over 300 years after his death and scholars consider it reliable. 2 of the gospels were written by direct eyewitnesses of Christ.

    What facts do you have that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem ?

  • It is not that there aren’t writings (though some of them are misattributed and some are generally thought to have been modified later by the likes of Eusebius) – it’s that the veracity of the writings is not capable of being demonstrated.

    There are thousands of references to Harry Potter, Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes (also Father Christmas, Batman and demons) – are you telling me that they must have existed because of the number of writings that talk about them?

    If that is Ryan Turner’s idea of rational thinking he needs to get out more!

  • Either atheism is a knowledge claim about reality or its not. There is no 3rd option.
    What facts do you have that proves no gods exist? How have you justified with facts that no gods exist? Without this, you have no reason to believe atheism is true.

  • “Most of ancient history was not written by eyewitnesses.”
    You aren’t helping your case.

    “2 of the gospels were written by direct eyewitnesses of Christ.”
    No – none of the Gospels were written by people who knew Jesus (I’m assuming a man now called Jesus existed – we don’t actually know for sure but it’s quite probable).

    “What facts do you have that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem ?”
    None – but I’m not claiming that he was – you are and therefore you have to prove he was. As it stands we know that the story about why he was born there is false – whether or not he was is irrelevant – your claim that the Gospels are historically accurate doesn’t depend on where he was born – it depends on the accuracy of the story – and that is untrue.

  • “Either atheism is a knowledge claim about reality or its not. There is no 3rd option”
    It is a statement of a lack of knowledge.

    “What facts do you have that proves no gods exist? How have you justified with facts that no gods exist? Without this, you have no reason to believe atheism is true.”
    Last time –

    Atheism is NOT a claim that there are no gods.

    Atheism is NOT true or false – it isn’t capable of being right or wrong.

    Atheists say that there is neither evidence nor reason to believe in god(s) so we don’t.

    Now – tell me what you believe about your god and I’ll tell you whether it can or can’t exist. But if it”s a god who is perfect goodness, love deified, the flawless creator of the universe, all-knowing, all-powerful, hating evil etc. etc. then either you are redefining words like love, good, flawless, all and evil or your god is rationally impossible.

  • Atheism is not a statement of “lack of knowledge”. It is a knowledge claim about reality just as theism is a knowledge claim about reality.

    If something is ” it isn’t capable of being right or wrong” then its a preference claim. That is what atheist are claiming. They prefer God not to exist because they have no facts that no gods exist nor that there are no gods.

    The life of Christ proves that God exist.

  • Matthew and John knew Jesus personally. Mark wrote down what Peter told him to.

    Bethlehem existed in the 1st century. What would be proof that anyone was born in Bethlehem in the 1st century and why?

  • What is your historical evidence that Harry Potter existed? Name some scholars who claim he was a historical figure.

  • Four heretical texts– worthless right out the gate, be definition.
    Two references in Josephus, one of which is most likely a later interpolation, one which merely mentions Jesus, and says nothing about the resurrection. Tacitus, a reference to Jesus, but nothing about his resurrection.
    And so on.
    Here’s the problem: you went to a website that told you about all of this stuff, which you already believed, but actually didn’t bother to read anything. And most importantly, understand it.
    The book of Mormon purports to be a true history of the new world. Its standards of proof are exactly what you claim prove the resurrection– appallingly low. But you reject it. Why? Joe smith at least claimed divine inspiration. Tacitus and Josephus didn’t even claim that.

  • And Francis Collins called the new testament a near eyewitness account.
    Appallingly low standards.

  • I’m an atheist and you know better than I what I mean by that?

    There is no “preference”. You have a need (based on your own insecurity) for atheism to mean something it doesn’t. That is your problem, not mine.

    You clearly don’t understand the concept of proof.

  • People we call Matthew and John may have known the man we call Jesus – but they didn’t write the gospels which are misattributed to them.

    Give up on Bethlehem – it’s irrelevant.

    What is relevant is that the biblical story of the census is untrue.

  • The evidence is exactly the same as yours for the existence of your God/Christ. Stories which can’t be demonstrated to be true.

  • We live , we die , we are recycled. Hopefully, in the process, we make it a better world before we leave,
    .

  • That’s a powerful lineup, JP. The skeptics (I’m talking about the professional skeptics, not the amateurs if ya know what I mean) really don’t have any way of countering it. Seriously don’t.

    When hostile ancient sources (highly unsympathetic to Christianity), nevertheless affirm that Jesus was real, was crucified, AND had a public reputation for doing supernatural stuff — the Babylonian Talmud quotation, of course! — you just know that these skeptizoids do NOT wanna step up to the plate against it.

  • If what you say is true why should you or anyone care to make the world better if in the end it doesn’t matter?

  • Where have historians shown where these places exist”
    Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
    Gryffindor House
    Hufflepuff House
    Ravenclaw House
    Slytherin House
    Headmaster’s Office
    Hospital Wing
    The Burrow
    Hogsmeade
    The Shrieking Shack
    Zonko’s Joke Shop

  • How would know that the names associated with the gospels did not write them? What facts do you have that shows this?

    A census did take place in the 1st century. What evidence do you have that shows its untrue?

  • The problem you have as an atheist is that there are no facts, no proof for it being true. Since this is true it is your preference.

  • The gospels are the primary sources for Christ for what He said and did. No one in history has been able to demonstrate with facts that these primacy source documents are false.

    The resurrection was witnessed by over 500 people over the course of 40 days in different situations. It is recorded in 5 historical accounts.

    Josephus was born after this happened. He would not be a source for it.

    What is the standard of proof for atheism? Its non-existent.

  • “Luke” talks about Jesus being born in Bethlehem because of a census. This is historically inaccurate. It didn’t happen.

    Oh please. A ton of Christians have already knocked out this claim. Textbooks & online. To save time, here’s Ted Wright.

    http://crossexamined.org/really-census-time-caesar-augustus/

    Since you’re also trying to water down Micah 5:2 via Jewish scholarship, let’s bring in Dr. Michael Brown (Near Eastern language PhD, Hebrew Bible scholar, and Messianic Jewish teacher), to give you the real deal. (Hat tip to article writer Bill Pratt too.) Micah 5:2 definitely points to Jesus.

    http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/04/18/does-micah-52-indicate-that-the-messiah-is-divine/

  • And no one has been able to prove they are true, either. That’s the whole point. Your theo resources are also a good example of what you see as “true.” So what if luke is a wonderful portrait of Jerusalem circa 33 AD. That doesn’t prove a single theological claim, only that luke is historically accurate as far as we know. As already pointed out to you, your references only assert that Christians existed, and that believed there was a person called Jesus. Of course they do! That’s the whole point of having a religion; if you just made it all up, no one would take you seriously.
    Again, your standard of proof is very low. You have the assertions of considerably less than 500 people that 500 people saw this. And 5 historical accounts that disagree an awful lot– this is acknowledged by everyone except for Christians of your sort. And this in a text which an omnipotent and omniscient god wrote, which your sort insist is the case.
    How many people were at the empty tomb in these “eyewitness accounts?
    and finally, please. Stop with the stuff you keep making up about atheism. Atheism isn’t trying to prove anything. We’re asking YOU to.

  • If you have to begin every single article about if a term is worth saving by first disambiguating what it means . . . that answer is already right there.

  • We’ve all been through this before.

    By definition atheism denies the existence of a deity.

    The word came into English from the French “athéiste in the 16th century – “godless person, one who denies the existence of a supreme, intelligent being to whom moral obligation is due,” from Greek “atheos” – “without god, denying the gods; abandoned of the gods; godless, ungodly,” from a- “without” + theos “a god”.

    An agnostic is an agnostic. He or she does not know.

    “Agnostic atheism” is phrase coined by Robert Flint at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries which has gained some currency because people got tired of identifying themselves as atheists and getting spit on, particular when communism was peaking.

    To reduce it to “denying the possibility of something that someone might define as a ‘god’” is even sillier.

    You can call yourself “Spot”, but don’t expect a rub behind the ear.

  • Of course, that is simply not true. You might actually read what we keep telling you.

    But you won’t.

    If you actually understood why you have no belief in all of the gods of men but your own, you might I understand why I have no belief in yours.

    But you won’t.

  • To be an athiest requires no particular beliefs. An athiest is a non-believer in any gods. This doesn’t mean he has to believe their are no gods, just that he needs to find evidence to be convinced. Your list of atheist beliefs just shows your lack of understanding.

  • By definition it is true and we’ve all been through this before.

    By definition atheism denies the existence of a deity. It does not speak to whether Bob or Ben believe that their right big toe is a deity, it speaks to whether a deity exists in objective reality.

    The word came into English from the French “athéiste in the 16th century – “godless person, one who denies the existence of a supreme, intelligent being to whom moral obligation is due,” from Greek “atheos” – “without god, denying the gods; abandoned of the gods; godless, ungodly,” from a- “without” + theos “a god”.

    An agnostic is an agnostic. He or she does not know.

    “Agnostic atheism” is phrase coined by Robert Flint at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries which has gained some currency because people got tired of identifying themselves as atheists and getting spit on, particular when communism was peaking.

    You can call yourself “Spot”, but don’t expect a rub behind the ear.

  • Countering is easy. None of those writers witnessed the alleged event. They all based their writings on hearsay. You are only demonstrating the possible existence of a popular myth. Kind of like fake news on the internet.

  • If it’s a sixteenth century definition of atheist, then it must be the only true one. And hey, nothing defines atheist like defining agnostic.

    We have been through it before, and what we atheists on these very pages keep telling you doesn’t seem to matter in the slightest to your agenda. Butt then, you are a fundamentalist, and so whatever other people think pales in the face of your adoration of what YOU think.

    So what do you call me? I don’t actually care one way or the other. As soon as you have some evidence that your particular and peculiar version of god not only exists, but is the “right” one, pLease let me know.

  • What you’re telling me is that you believe whatever you want, define words to suit you, and bray the results far and wide.

    Yes, I believe you.

  • An atheist is not justified in his belief about no gods because he has no facts that support and ignores all evidence and arguments for the existence of God. Thus its just a mere preference. The atheist cannot consistently with the implications of his atheism.

  • Who cares if you are caring. Dawkins says it best:
    “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
    ― Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

  • How would one prove the existence of heaven or hell? What would count as proof?

    Atheists, like theist bear the burden of proof for their claims that no gods exist. There refusal shows that its not a knowledge claim about reality but just a preference like their favorite ice cream flavor. What is your standard of proof that atheism is true? Do you even have one?

  • Ehttps://www.brainyquote.com/authors/richard_dawkins. for added wisdom from Richard Dawkins.

  • Becuase, unlike Chrisans of your sort, we actually care about people. If you have to ask the why and the wherefore of that….

    Well, you are your own answer.

  • Same problem with bigfoot deniers…they have no facts, no proof for bigfoot denial being true….”abigfootism” is simply a preference.

  • Same place as it has been shown that there is a god, a Christ, a Virgin Birth, a Creation, wine-turned-to-water etc. etc. etc..

  • Atheists don’t have to prove god(s) don’t exist. We see no reason in evidence or logic to believe that any do so we live our lives without the silliness of undemonstrable, superstitious belief. The burden of proof is on those who claim something exists – not those who doubt the accuracy of that belief.

    But you know that already – you can’t admit it though because your whole justification for your irrational belief seems to amount to – “you’re as daft as me” – and unfortunately for your argument we aren’t.

  • “How would know that the names associated with the gospels did not write them? What facts do you have that shows this?”

    Read the expert analysis of those who study the period without starting from a position of conviction.

    “When it comes to the historical question about the Gospels, I adopt a mediating position– that is, these are religious records, close to the sources, but they are not in accordance with modern historiographic requirements or professional standards.”
    David Noel Freedman, Bible scholar and general editor of the Anchor Bible series (Bible Review, December 1993, Vol. IX, Number 6, p.34)

    “A census did take place in the 1st century. What evidence do you have that shows its untrue?”

    Do you not understand straightforward English – or do you not read replies to questions you pose?

    There was a census – Herod had been dead some years – people were counted in their homes rather than an ancestral location – the census that did happen did not include people living in Nazareth

    I repeat my previous post:-

    “”Luke” talks about Jesus being born in Bethlehem because of a census. This is historically inaccurate. It didn’t happen.

    1 – Herod died in what we call 3 BCE
    2 – Quirenius was appointed in 6 CE after Herod’s son had fouled up and lost control of the part of his father’s kingdom that the Romans had entrusted to him.
    3 – Quirenius instigated a census which took place around 7 CE.
    4 – The Romans took a census by sending officials to each house and assessing its taxable worth – they weren’t stupid enough to ask people to travel 70 miles so that they could tell lies with impunity.
    5 – Nazareth was not involved in the census – it was outside Herod the less’s territory.

    And the cherry on the icing? – jewish scholars are clear that the verse (Micah 5:2) which is usually seen as the prophecy that the trip to Bethlehem is supposed to have fulfilled has nothing to do with the Messiah – it foresees the emergence of a temporal warrior leader who will liberate the occupied homeland of the Jews.

    “First you would have to show that the gospels are not historical with facts” – Done.”

  • Atheism is a lack of belief in god(s) NOT a disbelief in gods. Get your brain round that distinction and you’ll realise how silly your comment is.

  • Being a Christian is not relevant – understanding the subject is.

    It didn’t happen as detailed in the account falsely ascribed to Luke.

    Do you really think the Romans were stupid? (clue – they weren’t).

    I’ve not read your links – my virus checker advises that I don’t.

  • In the 16th century Christian used to mean someone who followed the teachings and example of the Christ.

    Modern usage of the word atheist (except by those who find their arguments being deflated by it) is as I’ve stated – An absence of belief in god(s).

    Most atheists are atheists because they can see no reason, in logic or evidence, to believe in something which, in practical terms, is irrelevant to daily life. Such atheists don’t deny that something that someone might define as a god could exist – indeed we feel that believing that there is no god(s) is as irrational as believing that there is one (or more than one). These are, in current parlance, known as agnostic atheists.
    There are a few people who say that they are convinced that there is nothing that could be deemed a god – they are referred to as “hard atheists” or “anti-theists.”

    Now – if you want to specify a particular god – let’s say you want me to accept the possibility of God (as in Abrahamic) – then I certainly disbelieve – unless you are prepared to water down its role to that of a cuel, disinterested spectator.

  • To leave the label ‘evangelical’ is to reinforce bigotry just as leaving the ‘fundamentalist’ label did. Why? It is because of the non-evangelical positions that many evangelicals have embraced have been found offensive. And rather than say that not all evangelicals are the same, such as in the evangelical support for Trump, those seeking a new label want to distance themselves from their brothers and sisters in Christ whom, they regard, as political or ideological lepers.

    Just as with Fundamentalists, not all evangelicals are the same. And to search for a new label because one disagrees with the political or ideological views of fellow believers is to insist that all of the new group are the same.

  • Since you have no facts that support your atheism then all you have is your preference. ” Get your brain round that distinction” any you will realize how silly atheism is.

  • Duh!

    A preference would be a choice between conflicting positions.

    Theism is a position – atheism is the absence of that position NOT an alternative position.

    Get someone who understands logic and has unlimited time and patience to explain it to you – I’m out.

    And back to the start – you challenged us to “show that the gospels are not historical with facts”

    I’ve done so. The rest is obfuscation,

  • Atheists are as diverse a group as Christians. For me I can say unequivocally the God Theists believe in is nothing more than a figment of their imagination. NOW this doesn’t mean that the word “God” is not used in other ways, such as a metaphor for the goodside of human nature as the “Devil” is the metaphor for the badside of human nature. OR that “God” is the word we give to those subatomic particles–bosons, quarks, electrons, etc. the Higgs Boson has actually been called the God particle as it explains how other particles gather the energy needed to attract other particles to form all that we see.

  • The life of Christ proves that People have created a fantasy built very loosely on the life of a real person (though some even dispute that there was a real man named Jesus, they claim the whole story is pure fabrication).

    As I pointed out in an above post I can prove that the God Theists believe in is nothing more than a figment of their imaginations.

  • No JP much of the NT has been shown to be a fabrication. You need to do more dilligent research. The NT is nothing more than a collection of stories. Some are better than others! Better as in more entertaining, better at getting the message across. The whole Bible OT and NT is a wonderful collection of fact and fantasy, myth, metaphor, poetry. It is written by men, transcribed and translated by men, compiled by men and transcribed and translated many times more. Each transcriber and translator added their own spin to the stories in order to impart the message they wanted to teach.

  • The resurrection story is a metaphorical story about finding/seeing the essence of what is called God and Jesus in the stranger, the prostitute, the lowly gardener. Mary sees the gardener near the tomb, her eyes and heart are opened when she sees in the lowly gardener the “face”, what we call the essence, the goodness of Jesus. The fishermen have their hearts and eyes opened when they see the same thing in the kindness of a stranger that tells them where to cast their nets. This is the essence of what Jesus tried to teach, find and see the essence of the goodness we call God in others, the prostitute, the strangers (the story of Lot), in the admonition of love thy neighbor as thy brother, and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    To read the resurrection story as literal truth is to miss the real beauty of all that the Jesus stories attempted to teach!

  • JP they have documented evidence of the time and place when the texts were written. They have documented evidence that there were several versions of stories in circulation and that what we ended up with is in some cases an amalgamation of several different tales. Look at Genesis 1 and 2, two very different versions of a creation story. They can also show how stories changed through copy errors, mistranslation errors, and through intention.

    You need to educate yourself about the Bible. There are several excellent books written about the books and several lousy books. Don’t pick a lousy text!

  • I can prove the Theistic God exists only as a figment of human imaginations. Heaven and Hell are metaphors for the conditions we humans create for ourselves and others. They are present right here and now on earth. Jesus is reported to have said that the kingdom of God is within, as within his imagination, within his heart. Physics has proven there is no physical heaven or hell!

  • Start with the birth stories. In Dec. flocks are not in the fields as night, they are tucked snuggly away in sheepfolds attached to cottages so herders and their flocks can stay warm! Look at the time line about the birth of John the Baptist and when Mary was pregnanat. Jesus was probably born (if he existed at all) in mid September.

  • Well, self-absorption.

    An atheist who tries to palm himself off as an agnostic to take the edge off it …. like Humpty Dumpty when you use a word “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

  • I provided the etymology to illustrate the word has a meaning, and where it comes from.

    For another example:

    Christian in the 16h century as a noun meant a believer in Christ or one who was christened into the Christian church. Currently:

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/christian

    noun – A person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Christianity.

    Amazing, eh? Words actually have meanings, and using them allows us to communicate.

    There is no “modern usage of the word ‘atheist”, there’s simply an erroneous usage by you, Ben in Oakland, and others who wish to coopt the word “agnostic” to place a fig leaf over your inability to stand the heat of being an atheist.

    “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’” – Through the Looking-Glass, chapter 6

    What the h-ll does “don’t deny that something that someone might define as a god could exist” mean? There is either a deity, or there is not a deity, in objective reality. You do believe that there’s an objective reality, right, and that we live in it? Or is it all about each individual’s perspective while looking at his own bellybutton?

    If you don’t know if there’s a deity, and in fact that it is unknowable, you’re an agnostic.

    Those of us who are agnostics don’t appreciate having the term contaminated.

  • And a religionist who keeps telling atheists that we don’t know what we are talking about is simply not paying attention. I’m not trying to palm myself off as an agnostic. That’s your story. I didn’t say I don’t know. I said show me some evidence.
    I don’t “know”, and neither do you. So in that way, we’re both agnostics. You believe. I don’t believe. Two sides of the same coin. You also have no belief in Allah, Shiva, or Buddha. Does that make you an atheist? No, I don’t think so. I just have no belief in one more god than you have no belief in.
    I also don’t believe in leprechauns and pookahs. Neither do you. Does that make me an a-leprechaunist, an a-bansheeist? Or does it just make me who wants to see some actual evidence, not your belief.

  • The gospels don’t tell us the date of the birth of Christ. December 25 was chosen by the church centuries later to celebrate His birth.

  • This doesn’t help. How would a person prove heaven and hell exist? What would count as evidence and why?

  • Words change their meanings.

    “Guys” used to refer only to males – now common usage is gender inclusive.

    “Prove” used to mean “test” – as in “it’s the exception that proves the rule”.

    Atheist can mean either someone who disbelieves or someone who has no belief – the former is old fashioned and has been replaced in common parlance with “anti-theist”, the latter is current usage.

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/atheist

  • Christian–noun – A person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Christianity. and yet so many Christians here regularly denounce other Christians for not being Christians, when they clearly are, by your definition.

  • Apparently your comprehension needs a tune-up. I haven’t cited any religious texts, scripts, or revelations in support of my positions.

    That doesn’t mean I am not familiar with them.

    On the other hand you tried to palm off “natural law” as a religious belief.

    I don’t believe that existence or non-existence is provable. That is different than saying there is no deity.

    If you place Allah, Shiva, Buddha, and any other deities in the same class as leprechauns and pookahs, you’re an atheist. I don’t place them in the same class.

    If you believe that a god may exist, or not, but there is no way to prove either way short of dying, you’re an agnostic.

    If you want to make your own definitions, you’re Humpty-Dumpty.

  • “If you place Allah, Shiva, Buddha, and any other deities in the same class as leprechauns and pookahs, you’re an atheist. I don’t place them in the same class.”

    Nor did I. I merely said There is as much evidence for any one of them as for any of the rest of them.

    And then you tell ME that I make my own definitions. Pretty silly. If you didn’t have straw men to battle, you would have nothing to argue at all.

    Have a nice day,.

  • Genesis 1 gives us the big picture of creation while Genesis 2 gives us the creation of man.
    I have read and studied the Bible for years, taken classes on it and studied how it was put together.

  • The problem with your theory is that it is presented as something that happened in history. Its not a metaphorical story but an event that happened in history. It certainly does have great implications for all of humanity.

  • If the NT is just a fabrication of made up stories then all of ancient history is also. The reason is that the gospel accounts are historical accounts that are supported by eyewitnesses and confirmed by historical facts. You are the one that needs to some diligent study of its history and not be so gullible to accepts skeptics claims about it.

  • https://atheismfaq.quora.com/Atheism-FAQ

    http://grammarist.com/usage/agnostic-atheist/

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/atheist

    “There is as much evidence for any one of them as for any of the rest of them” defines you as obfuscating.

    Do you believe Allah, Shiva, Buddha, and any other deities in the same class MIGHT be proven to exist?

    If “yes”, you’re not an atheist.

    An agnostic believes that any answers will involve dying.

  • You nor any other atheist has ever given one fact that proves that the life of Christ is a fantasy. Its the atheist who does not believe in God not based on facts but on the figment of their imaginations.

  • I used the dictionary you quoted – now you want to use another.

    Like it or not, the usage of words changes over time and I’m content that I don’t live in the 16th century.

    You want to use agnostic instead of atheist (“unbeliever in god[s]” might be better but is somewhat clumsy) but we use agnostic to mean that knowledge is impossible rather than unavailable. I would say that it would be quite possible for a god to provide convincing evidence of it’s existence but, as there is none, it is possible that there IS OR IS NOT god(s). The possibility, for me, invalidates agnosticism, the lack of evidence or rational need leads me to atheism.

  • Honey, ya just won’t give up in your effort to bend reality to your will.

    Atheismfaq: not an organization I belong to.

    Grammarist: you should read your sources BEFORE you quote them. “Lacks belief in god”

    Cambridge: marriage is only two people. Wrong. Wrong wrong.

    There is as much evidence…not obfuscating. Simply the truth. It’s not my problem if you can’t accept the truth.

    I believe that any of them MIGHT be proven to exist. So far, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE that convinces anyone but the followers of each. What is it about simple English, even your own, that eludes you?

    An agnostic believes any answers involves dying? So now you also speak for agnostics? Or are you still just making stuff up?

    Oh my.

  • I did not cite the Oxford dictionary to define “atheist”. IMHO their definition confused and commingled two separate concepts.

    What you appear to be writing is that there MAY be a deity, but you have not encountered any convincing evidence of the existence of it.

    That MAY rules you out of atheism by definition.

    As as an agnostic I can’t rule out the existence of a deity, so why you believe agnosticism is invalidated is not clear. All I can rule out is the proof one way or the other.

    One of two things will happen – a proof will appear, perhaps the deity will knock me off my horse, but I believe that to be unlikely in the extreme since we have no tools to measure spiritual realities if there are any and I am too insignificant to attract a deity’s attention, or I will die, at which time I may find more out, and death is certain.

    There is another possible definition

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ignorant

    definition 1.1

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/ignorant

    and there is no shame at all simply stating “I do not know”. That would be my second choice in self-designation, and in fact I see “agnostic” as a subset of it.

  • I am sorry to hear you are having trouble with the English language.

    I assume it has something to do with your conclusion that you are the center of the universe, it is all about you, and outside of you there is nothing worth noting.

    Many other people, of course, disagree and some might even suggest you’re a self-absorbed git, although of course I won’t.

    My comments used three sources: standard etymological material, the definitions from philosophy, and my own personal experience over 40 years plus which led me to define myself.

    I further explicate that last to Givethedogabone, including describing what agnostic is a subset of.

    Of course since none of these three sources are you, or about you, you’ll find nothing worth noting and you can move on assured that either you have all the answers, or any answers you don’t have aren’t worth concerning yourself about.

    Well, I’ve taken enough of your time with pesky facts. You can go back to dwelling on yourself.

  • “I did not cite the Oxford dictionary to define “atheist”. IMHO their definition confused and commingled two separate concepts.”
    You didn’t quote the Oxford dictionary because their definition didn’t support your preconceived preference.

    “What you appear to be writing is that there MAY be a deity, but you have not encountered any convincing evidence of the existence of it.
    That MAY rules you out of atheism by definition.”
    By your preferred definition – not by the one you prefer to reject.

    “why you believe agnosticism is invalidated is not clear.”
    What is unclear about “we use agnostic to mean that knowledge is impossible rather than unavailable. I would say that it would be quite possible for a god to provide convincing evidence of it’s existence but, as there is none, it is possible that there IS OR IS NOT god(s).”?

    If you insist on using the old definitions that is your choice. It isn’t, in my experience, current usage within the atheist/humanist world of which I am an active member.

    I suggest that, when discussing such matters, you make your definitions clear at the outset – it may save you some extended misunderstandings.

  • I simply have to say… that is the biggest, most gelatinous mass of woo-woo I’ve heard in a long time. Where do you get all this nonsense?

  • Spot on Curt. It’s just sometimes easier to leave a label than to continue to explain the richness of it when there has been so much damage done by those who wear it as a badge of self righteousness. Yet I do agree, the effort required is worth it, or the beauty of the gospel and the love of Jesus has been coopted by falsehoods.

  • Wow Ben, that’s surprising. No facts for Christianity??? I disagree, respectfully ;), but I do vehemently disagree. Why would we be foolish enough to rest our faith and our world view on something that isn’t factually based? If you choose to disagree with the facts, that’s OK by me, but to state there are no facts, well that’s just wrong.

  • 1. Order came from disorder
    2. Uniformity came from the accidental
    3. Intelligence came from non-intelligence
    4. Design came from chaos
    5. Personality came from non-personality
    6. Love came from hard matter
    7. Something came from nothing
    8. Life has no ultimate purpose
    9. No grounding for morality. No right or wrong.
    10. Man is just a meat machine.

    I notice that Christians prefer to avoid talking about where their god came from. Gee, I wonder why.

  • You might have noticed that I was paralleling JP’s nonsense. As for your question, that’s not one I can answer. Why would you do that? The role of faith in Christianity, as in any other religion, is paramount, according to many of the Christians posting here. Does Hinduism have fact behind it? What about IslAm? What about Mormons?

    Did Jesus exist? I think probably. So there is a fact, probably. did the resurrection happen? It can’t be “probably”, it must be a yes or a no. Will Jesus come again? Back to faith. Does god love us, whatever that means? A lot of people would argue no. Back to faith.

    I’m not really interested in what people believe. My interests lie in wat they do with them. JP uses his faith as a weapon.

  • Wrong JP, both tell stories about the creation of man. I suggest you take a piece of paper, mark it into 2 columns. Label Genesis 1 at the top of one and Genesis 2 at the top of the other. Then read through both and list by days, the order of creation. On day one Genesis 1 said this was created and Genesis 2 said this was created. Then compare the two.

    You obviously didn’t read very well and had poor teachers.

  • Didn’t have any trouble at all with the language. Just your insistence that your three sources somehow represent truth, at least as you define it.

    One standard etymological material source disagreed with you. Now there is a pesky, self absorbed git of a fact, but hey, no one would want to disagree with someone that is always right, so I won’t. One source hasn’t caught up that marriage isn’t just two people, and hasn’t been since forever.

    But the bet part is your comments about things having to be “all about me” that includes this gem: “and my on personal experience that led me to define myself.” ME ME ME ME ME ME. But of course, we atheists, bing atheists, don’t have any of that.

    You have an nice day, dear.

  • Curt, I agree with you on this one. You have evangelicals like you, who realize you’re not the only people on the planet or necessarily god’s BFFF, and then you have the other kind, whose quest is for power, money, dominion, and revenge.

    But the same thing can be said of Christianity in general. You have NALT Christians vs. conservative Christians as well. You have Christians that want to live their lives according to their faith, and others who want to live other people¿s lives for them. You have bible believing Christians vs. spirit guided Christians.

    I can see why some are trying to create distance.

  • What???? I am right. Genesis is about primarily the big picture of creation while Genesis 2 focuses on the creation of man. They are not contradictory accounts.

    Are you public schooled?

  • So you are afraid to do what I suggested? Until you do what I suggested your arguments mean nothing.

    Yes I am public schooled. I also hold a Masters Degree.

  • God did not come from anywhere but has always existed.

    That is a classic cliche response to the question.

    Humans are obviously simple organisms compared to a god who must be infinitely more intelligent, skilled, and powerful to have created the universe. An old question that people seem to spend little time contemplating is: Where did God come from? A common answer is: God is eternal, and thus has always existed. And then they quickly change the subject or end the conversation. All the answers I’ve heard seem to be designed to avoid any serious consideration of the question.

    You can assert that God just suddenly appeared, or “always existed,” but there is not a single shred of evidence for that (and Bible verses are irrelevant). So, if God didn’t just suddenly appear, he must have developed by some form of evolution.

    If you are unable to believe that life on earth could have developed via evolution, how can you possibly believe that an infinitely more intelligent, skilled, and powerful God suddenly appeared from nowhere or through a form of evolution?

  • How would a person prove that a being is eternal?
    If God is not eternal then we run into the problem of eternal regression unless you believe the absurd idea that nothing can create something.

    Do you mean by evolution the idea that the mindless-purposeless forces created a god?

  • I can provide one hundred sources.

    You’re entitled to your erroneous opinion, which accompanies your other erroneous opinions.

    I do believe that the considered life requires that we need to define ourselves. My own conclusion is that “agnostic”, as it is correctly defined, is my self-classification.

    Apparently you’ve done that – although I am not sure what a “bing atheist” is.

    Well, do get back to gazing at your navel.

  • I insist on using the correct (old) definitions.

    Words have meanings.

    If you identify yourself as an atheist, or an agnostic, educated people familiar with the proper usage will classify you accordingly.

  • I can provide one hundred sources.

    You’re entitled to your erroneous opinion, which accompanies your other erroneous opinions.

    I do believe that the considered life requires that we need to define ourselves. My own conclusion is that “agnostic”, as it is correctly defined, is my self-classification.

    Apparently you’ve done that – although I am not sure what a “bing atheist” is.

    Well, do get back to gazing at your navel.

  • I insist on using the correct (old) definitions.

    Words have meanings.

    If you identify yourself as an atheist, or an agnostic, educated people familiar with the proper usage will classify you accordingly.

  • Good for you. You get to define yourself, but the same privilege is not extended to anyone you disagree with,

  • You do. God has always existed. One of those “ancient history” things you were just saying can’t be proven.

  • Again, reading comprehension issues at your end:

    You can define yourself.

    However, if you communicate in English using words that have meanings, you can’t change the meanings to suit you and expect anyone to understand your meaning.

    Go ahead, call yourself Spot, or bing atheist, or whatever you wish.

    If you call yourself a square circle, or an agnostic atheist, expect pushback.

  • Physics has “proven” no such thing.

    That’s as silly as the first cosmonaut reporting that he looked outside his capsule and there was no god and no angels.

  • Let’s repeat this one more time. And then, I really am done with the conversation.
    YOU, not me, cite a source and give a link saying that YOUR definition of an atheist is correct. I go to that link, read that source, and it clearly says that YOU ARE WRONG. It gives YOUR definition of an atheist, and it gives MINE. I quote that.
    But IT IS I that am being obtuse and difficult.
    OK, snowflake. you win. Your pushback is successful. Now, are you happy?

  • ” And then, I really am done with the conversation.”

    Unlikely in the extreme.

    I was not the one that cited the Oxford Dictionary, and you’ve discovered why. It’s an outlier, and it conflates two completely different things.

    Atheism and agnosticism have histories, literature, and meanings. They are not interchangeable.

    If you communicate in English using words that have meanings, you can’t change the meanings to suit you and expect anyone to understand your meaning.

    Of course clarity is the very last thing on your mind.

  • Insist away.

    Expect that people who are part of the real world will misunderstand you.

    FWIW – part of the classroom discussions I have with UK school age children involves asking them what they mean by “atheist”. In the last couple of months every group – 6 classes of 12/13 year olds and a couple composed of 8/9 years olds have responded “someone who doesn’t believe in god” – no-one has said “someone who thinks god doesn’t exist”.

    Language is a tool to aid communication. It is the communication that is important, not the means by which it succeeds.

    And yes – I thoroughly enjoy the sound of someone such as Richard Burton reading the words of Winston Churchill or similar (even the KJV) – but communication is not about correctness, it is not about style and it’s not about my preferences – either it succeeds or it doesn’t and I don’t have the ability to turn the clock back so I’ll go with (according to feedback) being effective.

  • So, you’re arguing that UK school age children should set the bar for definitions?

    If language is a tool to aid communication, and you believe that you should make definitions on the fly, even if they are diametrically opposed to constant usage and meaning for over 400 years, then what you’re saying is that you’re anti-communication.

    And I believe you completely.

  • Ben,
    There is a point where we disagree too. For claiming to be an evangelical or Christian does not make one either one. Rather, what defines a Christian is what the Scriptures say. Why the Scriptures? Because they are God-breathed. Thus, we can’t claim something as coming from God’s Spirit which goes against what God said.

    My point is that there are variety of Christians in areas that lie outside of what God’s Word says. God’s Word doesn’t define Christianity by our politics or political/economic ideologies though inconsistencies between God’s Word and those ideologies exist. But God’s Word does define Christianity by the contents of our faith and says how that faith is verified by what we do and don’t do.

  • Now you’re getting silly

    No – (and I question whether you really think it true) I don’t expect children to set the bar – they are but responding to the bar that already exists in society at large. And that, whatever can be found in dictionaries, is where language, meaning and education develop.

    Are you an academic? – I ask because you seem removed from mainstream life, life which operates within a world in which change and progress are both ongoing and necessary.

    The alternative to change is to pick an arbitrary time and pretend that that was the perfection of the English language – But where do you chose your point of reference, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Samuel Johnson, the Bishops of the KJV predecessor, Henry VIII and Greensleeves, Chaucer, Bede?

  • ” Thus, we can’t claim something as coming from God’s Spirit which goes against what God said.”
    But that is entirely the point. With all respect, sincerely, that is YOUR belief. A lot of people disagree with that. Biblical literalists believe not god-breathed, but literal word of god. Catholics tend to disagree with that idea, as far as I can tell. That’s what the magisterium is for. More liberal Christians state their views not despite what the bible says, but because of what their bibles say– what it actually says TO THEM. Mormons believe that their book supersedes yours– it’s the RESTORED gospel.
    I don’t have a dog in this fight. What I care about is what is done with those beliefs.

  • Ben,
    Before disagreeing with you more on the subject, I want to emphasize how much I appreciate our past correspondencess and respect you as a person.

    What is Christianity? Is it waxed nose that allows anyone to make of it as they please. Is it just another template by which people try to find or prove themselves to God? Or does it encapsulate a faith that was defined by God and revealed in His Son Jesus Christ and interpreted by Christ’s apostles?

  • It is one thing to say that God has always existed (He said He has) and another to say nothing created something. That is absurd and impossible.

  • Curt, those are not questions that I can answer. I’m an atheist of a sort. My point is that those are, apparently, not questions people of faith can answer, either.

  • Someone claims he has. All you have is an ancient text. And no one says nothing created something. That’s your misstatement of the scientific position. “Something” has always existed. Just like your god.

  • Your quite lovely long comment to me seems to have disappeared, so I will respond to it here. Please, I have no bad feelings about it whatsoever, not even a whiff of consternation. 🧐

    The issue for me is rarely what people believe, though occasionally, I will match wits or leg-raising on some of them. I have often said on these very pages that if your faith makes your life better, and you a better person, then I am all for it. I think of my oldest friend in the world, a very conservative, very believing Christian. He’s a good man, and always has been.

    I am always concerned about weaponized faith. That’s usually what I respond to.

    Thanks again.

  • Not even a whiff of consternation… yep, I do like your words. Thanks Ben. I’m grateful to know you.

  • Yes it is obvious. That is why I am not afraid to face the truth. I take it you were home schooled or went to a religious school which explains alot about your ignorance.

  • Jumping in here gentlemen, pardon the interruption. Just want to thank you for disagreeing agreeably! Curt, your last sentence, “the Scriptures judge us, not we ourselves.” There in is my hope and the reason I seek to follow the One who spoke those Scriptures into existence and who brings life, hope and salvation to my heart and to my soul.

  • I would define it differently than agnostic atheist. That just plays into the biases and beliefs of the bobs and jp’s of the world.

    I often refer to myself as an it-doesn’t-matterist. It simply doesn’t matter what I believe or don’t believe, because it is irrelevant, as you note. It also doesn’t matter if there is a god or no, because “not a sparrow falls but god knows of it.” But the sparrow still falls, so god has defined itself as irrelevant. If god is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, then his existence doesn’t matter in the slightest. Nothing would be any different than it is.

    It also why I have often said that if I had any god, it would be Koschei the Deathless, Who Made Things As They Are. As Koschei says! “What are your beliefs about Me to Me, Who Made Things As They Are?”

  • How about playing it straight – don’t-know-sh-t-from-peanut-butter-but-know-what-I-wantist?

  • Sorry. not straight. Never will be. And your ever insulting tone, coupled with your wholly imaginary superiority and morality, pretty much underlines your moral and humane inadequacy.
    But please, keep it up. Maybe, with a little bit of luck, you’ll turn a few more people away from your religion, and whatever it is you hide behind it.

  • How about a return to the original Evangelical Church that proclaimed the gospel and tried to help the sick and the poor? It was started by learned people in the sixteenth century in reaction to a corrupt church.

  • Amen. Coming to the discussion late. Christians in my area in general are far too busy to help others who need said help. Dissecting Christianity into groups doesn’t bring us to the unity and LOVE we need in Christ.

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