Dear Freethinkers

What do I have to say to those espousing freethinking? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Dear Freethinkers,

I want to write to you today because I’m frankly confused by what I see of you. You see, you claim to hold to no statements of faith. You claim that by being a skeptic, the only position you have to have is to not affirm the existence of God. You claim that there are no doctrines to your position. Despite all of this, most all of you seem to think remarkably exactly alike.

You all come right out of the gates often with one of your favorite mantras. “No evidence.” Are you really thinking this? Are you thinking that every theist and Christian in history has just never considered that they have no evidence for what they believe? Sure, you might meet a layman like that, but do you really think everyone is like that?

When it comes to talking about God, we are told there is no evidence. Is that really supposed to convince us? You see, some of us read these things called “books.” We don’t rely on Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia. We also read books that disagree with us. When we say we believe in God, we do so because we are convinced that that is where the arguments lead. In fact, while we agree on the conclusion, we can disagree on the arguments. Some people like the ontological argument. I don’t. I like the Thomistic arguments. Some don’t. Some people think scientific apologetics works well. I disagree. That’s okay.

In fact, this is what real thinking is all about. Real thinking is not just seeing if you find a conclusion that agrees with you. Real thinking is asking if the argument really does have evidence for it that leads to the conclusion. Just because I agree with the conclusion that God exists, it doesn’t mean I agree with the argument given for it. In fact, I daresay I have gone after more Christian apologists using bad arguments than many of you have.

Another favorite one of mine is when you say that there’s no evidence Jesus ever existed. Now perhaps in some cases, atheism could be understandable, such as with the problem of evil, though I do not see that as a defeater at all, but this one really takes the cake. You know what makes this even funnier? So many of you naturally agree among yourselves that creationism is nonsense and we need to listen to the consensus of modern science. Fair enough, but you do the exact opposite with history. You don’t listen to the consensus of modern historians and mock Christians for not listening to the consensus of modern scientists.

You see, your position is even more of a joke because I can find you a list of scientists who dissent from Darwin. Are they right? Beats me. I don’t argue that issue. If you want to find historians who dissent from the base existence of Jesus, you can count the number on two hands at the most. Note that by historians, I mean people with Ph.D.s in a field relevant to NT studies. I don’t mean just any Joe Blow you can find on the internet.

You may not like it, but as soon as you start espousing mythicism, I immediately have no reason to take you seriously anymore.  I know I’m dealing with someone who doesn’t read the best material. I know this will be a shock, but outside his internet fanbase, Richard Carrier just isn’t taken seriously. You can guarantee you won’t be by hanging on his every word. In fact, as a Christian apologist, I thank God for Richard Carrier. He’s doing a great service by dumbing down his fellow atheists to accept the conspiracy theory of mythicism, and yes. That’s all it is. It ranks right up there with saying the moon landing is a hoax or that 9/11 was an inside job.

Since we briefly spoke about science, let’s go on with that topic. You all seem to think that if something cannot be demonstrated by science, then it is nonsense. It’s as if mankind had no knowledge whatsoever and never knew anything until science came along. This gets even funnier when you talk about miracles. “We know today that virgins don’t give birth, that people don’t walk on water, and that people don’t rise from the dead.” You really think people didn’t know that stuff back then? You think they were just ignorant? Sure, they weren’t doing experiments and such, but they knew basic facts that we wouldn’t disagree with. You don’t have to be a world-class scientist to know that when someone dies, you bury them, or that it takes sex to make a baby. They all knew this.

The fact is that we don’t really have a beef with science. We might disagree on what is scientific and what isn’t. There are Christians who have no problem with evolution. There are Christians who do. There are Christians who think the world is billions of years old. There are Christians who don’t. We debate this amongst ourselves. None of us though say that science is bunk and should be disregarded. Perhaps we are misinformed on what is and isn’t science, but we are not opposed to science.

In fact, you never seem to think about what you say about the scientific method. You never pause to ask if the claim that all truth must be shown by the scientific method is itself shown by the scientific method. You don’t even consider that science is an inductive field. Sure, some claims might have more certainty than others, but none of them are absolute claims proven.

I also find it so amusing when you talk about the Bible. You all have the hang-ups that fundamentalist Christians that you condemn do. You think that the Bible absolutely has to be inerrant. Many of us hold to inerrancy, but some of us actually do not, and we debate that. Still, even many of us who hold to inerrancy do not see it as an essential and think Christianity can be true and inerrancy false. For you, the Bible is an all-or-nothing game. Either everything in it is true or none of it is. This is remarkably similar to your position on Jesus where either He was the miracle-working God-man Messiah who rose from the dead or He never existed. Your positions are entirely black and white. There is no shade of gray.

You then throw out 101 Bible contradictions and expect us to keel over immediately. We don’t. Many of these, you’ve never even studied yourself. You’ve just gone to a web site, got a list, and then suddenly thought you were an authority. It never seems to occur to you that in thousands of years of studying the Bible no one has ever seen these before.

When it comes to interpretation, you have a big hang-up on literacy. You think that everything in the Bible has to be “literal” although you have not given any idea of what that means nor have you even bothered to tell us why that must be so. The Bible is a work of literature like many other books and it uses all manner of ways of speaking. It uses metaphor, simile, hyperbole, allegory, etc.

You also seem to think that the Bible has to be immediately understandable to 21st century Western English speakers. God should be clear. Well, why should He? It’s as if you think you are part of the only people who ever lived and God should have made things clear to you immediately without having to do any work whatsoever.

In all of this, you’re just like the fundamentalists you condemn. The difference isn’t your mindset. It’s only your loyalties. You think everything in the book is wrong. They think everything in it is right. None of you really give arguments. It’s just a personal testimony and faith.

And yes, you do have personal testimonies. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard “I used to be a Christian, but”. I mean, do you want me to break out a chorus of “Just As I Am” at that point? It’s like all you used in your Christian days was a personal testimony and today, that’s still all you have. All I normally see is you went from an uninformed Christian to an uninformed skeptic.

As for faith, you never seem to understand it. You’ve bought into all the new atheist gunk that says that faith is believing without evidence. You never bother to consult scholars of the Greek and Hebrew languages to see what the Bible means by the term. What we mean is a trust that is based on that which has shown itself to be reliable.

You would be greatly benefited by going to a library sometime. You see, if all you read are the new atheists, you’re not going to make a dent. You might get some of what is called low-hanging fruit, in that people as uninformed as you are will be convinced, but not people who actually do study this kind of stuff seriously. You think that Google is enough to show you know everything. It isn’t. You don’t know how to sift through information and evaluate it. All you do is look and see if it agrees with you. If it makes Christians or Christianity look stupid, it has to be 100% true.

You should also know this doesn’t describe all atheists and skeptics out there. There are atheists and skeptics that do actually read scholarly works that disagree with them. I can have discussions with them. We can talk about the issues. They can agree easily that Jesus existed without thinking they have to commit ritual suicide at that point. They can have no problem discussing scholarly works. Many of these would even say that while they disagree with Christians, that a Christian can have justification for his belief and is not necessarily an idiot for being a Christian. You could learn a lot from them. Be like them. Don’ live in the bubble of just reading what agrees with you and buying everything you read on the internet. Study and learn.

Until you do this, freethinkers remind me of a slogan someone used years ago that I have taken. It’s not original to me, but I like it. With freethinking, you get what you pay for. Why not pay the price of being an informed thinker by reading and studying. You’re not hurting us by your actions. You’re only hurting yourself and your fellow skeptics.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

  • Jesus mythicism? That was never my difficulty when it came to being disillusioned by claims that the Bible was an inspired authority.

    Standard NT scholarship rather than Jesus mythicism is enough to move many Christian seminarians and Christian college students (who take religion courses) toward more moderate/liberal interpretations of biblical authority, and raise questions concerning how much of the Jesus story is historical, all without having to assert it is total myth.

    Check what questions seminarian Thom Stark found perplexing via reading his book, The Human Faces of God.

    And even before Robert M. Price became a Jesus minimalist, his studies of biblical scholarship led to his thesis, Inerrant the Wind, about the troubled house of North American Evangelicals when it came to defining and agreeing upon a notion of biblical authority. Another early work by Price, chock full of questions and composed prior to him becoming a Jesus minimalist, is Beyond Born Again.

    What is perhaps most embarrassing is when Christian scholars, ministers or missionaries who spent decades propagating the truth of Christianity 24/7 determine that they now have more questions than secure answers, and leave the fold.

    How many atheists have spent decades propagating the truth of atheism 24/7 (in as single-minded a fashion in books, articles and lectures, as the above mentioned Christians) and then became conservative Evangelical Christians? (Even Antony Flew, the famous atheist who spent decades propagating atheism in books and articles, only converted to a form of philosophical theism or deism, and died w/o becoming a believer in the inspiration of the Bible, nor did he become a Christian, and he still considered the problem of pain/evil quite perplexing.)

    How many stories have you read of biblical or religion scholars, or adult preachers or missionaries who left the fold (or at least left more conservative religious beliefs for more moderate/liberal ones)? How about stories of entire Christian institutions of higher learning growing more moderate, inclusive, liberal, secular over a period of a century or two?

    To quote the blog of The Reluctant Skeptic:

    The more I read, the more I realized that mainstream biblical scholarship confirmed all of these issues I was grappling with. The oft repeated mythical stories that warned about the dangers of higher education, that often include an enthusiastic young preacher who goes to seminary (“cemetery”) and comes back doubting everything are not so mythical. From the famous evangelist Chuck Templeton (Billy Graham’s close friend) until going to Princeton to engage in Biblical Studies, to Robert Funk, the agnostic historical Jesus scholar who had been a fundamentalist in his youth, these myths are real, they are the stories of thousands of educated Christians who lost their zeal after engaging in biblical studies. As the top conservative New Testament textual scholar in America, Dan Wallace, said:

    “As remarkable as it may sound, most biblical scholars are not Christians. I don’t know the exact numbers, but my guess is that between 60% and 80% of the members of SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) do not believe that Jesus’ death paid for our sins, or that he was bodily raised from the dead.”

    Also from Dan Wallace:

    “In one of our annual two-day meetings about ten years ago, we got to discussing theological liberalism during lunch. Now before you think that this was a time for bashing liberals, you need to realize that most of the scholars on this committee were theologically liberal. And one of them casually mentioned that, as far as he was aware, 100% of all theological liberals came from an evangelical or fundamentalist background. I thought his numbers were a tad high since I had once met a liberal scholar who did not come from such a background. I’d give it 99%. Whether it’s 99%, 100%, or only 75%, the fact is that overwhelmingly, theological liberals do not start their academic study of the scriptures as theological liberals. They become liberal somewhere along the road.”

    • Windowr

      What is perhaps most embarrassing is when Christian scholars, ministers or missionaries who spent decades propagating the truth of Christianity 24/7 determine that they now have more questions than secure answers, and leave the fold.

      Embarrassing to who exactly? It’s even less fascinating than a Muslim terrorist “who spent decades propagating the truth of [Islam] 24/7” becoming a Christian.

      How many atheists have spent decades propagating the truth of atheism 24/7 (in as single-minded a fashion in books, articles and lectures, as the above mentioned Christians)

      “24/7 (in as single-minded a fashion in books, articles and lectures…)”?

      You should check out Dr. Jay Wile’s blog. He has more than a few articles of people leaving Atheism, his most recent article being about one who was raised as one.

      Also, a quick google search of “Atheist converts to Christianity” will offer you about 200,000 results. Switch it around and you get about 130,000 and there are lists littered left and right of people going to and from one faith to another so I’m not sure what Atheists like you think this proves.

      • I am agnostic, not atheist. And I agree people convert in every direction. But why should people who are dedicated enthusiastic born again Christian missionaries, ministers, biblical scholars (and children of apologists) grow more moderate/liberal or even leave the fold? No doubt anyone can leave any fold, but leaving the one true fold after decades of spending one’s life supporting it make it seem like the Christian belief system is like all the rest.

        Even worse, why would ENTIRE CHRISTIAN SEMINARIES AND CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING grow more moderate/liberal/diverse and secular over time? I am speaking of seminaries and universities like Harvard (founded by conservative Christians), Yale (founded by conservative Christian ministers due to the growing “theological excesses” of Harvard, but now look at Yale), Princeton. The more these leading seminaries and universities interacted with worldwide scholarly questions and continued to seek out the the world’s foremost scholars and students, the more moderate/liberal diverse and secular they became.

        The oft repeated mythical stories that warned about the dangers of higher education, which often include an enthusiastic young preacher who goes to seminary (“cemetery”) and comes back doubting everything are not so mythical. From the world famous evangelist Chuck Templeton (who preached with Billy Graham for many years) until going to Princeton to engage in Biblical Studies, to Robert Funk, the agnostic historical Jesus scholar who had been a fundamentalist in his youth, these myths are real, they are the stories of thousands of people who lost their zeal after engaging in biblical studies.

        As the top conservative New Testament textual scholar in America, Dan Wallace, said:

        “As remarkable as it may sound, most biblical scholars are not Christians. I don’t know the exact numbers, but my guess is that between 60% and 80% of the members of SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) do not believe that Jesus’ death paid for our sins, or that he was bodily raised from the dead.”

        Also from Dan Wallace:

        “In one of our annual two-day meetings about ten years ago, we got to discussing theological liberalism during lunch. Now before you think that this was a time for bashing liberals, you need to realize that most of the scholars on this committee were theologically liberal. And one of them casually mentioned that, as far as he was aware, 100% of all theological liberals came from an evangelical or fundamentalist background. I thought his numbers were a tad high since I had once met a liberal scholar who did not come from such a background. I’d give it 99%. Whether it’s 99%, 100%, or only 75%, the fact is that overwhelmingly, theological liberals do not start their academic study of the scriptures as theological liberals. They become liberal somewhere along the road.”

        • Windowr

          I am agnostic, not atheist.

          Mhmm.

          And I agree people convert in every direction. But why should people who are dedicated enthusiastic born again Christian missionaries, ministers, biblical scholars (and children of apologists) grow more moderate/liberal or even leave the fold? No doubt anyone can leave any fold, but leaving the one true fold after decades of spending one’s life supporting it make it seem like the Christian belief system is like all the rest.

          To you perhaps but they carry as much weight with respect to the “trueness” of Christianity as Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus Christ, the Israelites worship of Baal at Mt. Sinai “because Moses was wasting too much time” or other similar cases.

          It seems most people want a Zeddicus Zul Zorander feelgood god. It’s certainly in line with the emotional roots of Atheism.

          Even worse, why would ENTIRE CHRISTIAN SEMINARIES AND CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING grow more moderate/liberal/diverse and secular over time?

          Because secularists find their way into such organizations? Because the “non-diverse” try to appease the “diverse” and end up paying for it? Because secularists are at the helm?

          What happens to a (naive) Christian when he finds himself in a community with 60% to 80% of Atheists babbling on and on about the same things? Well:

          I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects what theologians call divinity in every human being.

          These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool day care center or large state university.

          The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.

          The more these leading seminaries and universities interacted with worldwide scholarly questions and continued to seek out the the world’s foremost scholars and students, the more moderate/liberal diverse and secular they became.

          What?

          The oft repeated mythical stories that warned about the dangers of higher education, which often include an enthusiastic young preacher who goes to seminary (“cemetery”) and comes back doubting everything are not so mythical. From the world famous evangelist Chuck Templeton (who preached with Billy Graham for many years) until going to Princeton to engage in Biblical Studies, to Robert Funk, the agnostic historical Jesus scholar who had been a fundamentalist in his youth, these myths are real, they are the stories of thousands of people who lost their zeal after engaging in biblical studies.

          As the top conservative New Testament textual scholar in America, Dan Wallace, said:

          “As remarkable as it may sound, most biblical scholars are not Christians. I don’t know the exact numbers, but my guess is that between 60% and 80% of the members of SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) do not believe that Jesus’ death paid for our sins, or that he was bodily raised from the dead.”

          Also from Dan Wallace:

          “In one of our annual two-day meetings about ten years ago, we got to discussing theological liberalism during lunch. Now before you think that this was a time for bashing liberals, you need to realize that most of the scholars on this committee were theologically liberal. And one of them casually mentioned that, as far as he was aware, 100% of all theological liberals came from an evangelical or fundamentalist background. I thought his numbers were a tad high since I had once met a liberal scholar who did not come from such a background. I’d give it 99%. Whether it’s 99%, 100%, or only 75%, the fact is that overwhelmingly, theological liberals do not start their academic study of the scriptures as theological liberals. They become liberal somewhere along the road.”

          Here are the differences between that and your previous text blob:

          “that often include an enthusiastic young preacher…” vs. “which often include an enthusiastic young preacher…”

          “From the famous evangelist Chuck Templeton (Billy Graham’s close friend)…” vs. “From the world famous evangelist Chuck Templeton (who preached with Billy Graham for many years)…”. BTW, you’re the first person I’m hearing those two names from.

          That’s a rather interesting text blob that you’re quoting from somewhere.

          Anyways, this recent article might interest you.

      • See also this page on
        THE ASSYMETRY OF CONVERSION https://www.sites.google.com/site/leavingxtianity/home/asym

        And this piece that questions THE UNIQUENESS OF THE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE http://infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/experience.html

        And over 290 books on deconversions, including books by former missionaries and ministers https://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/3JQ7OLD5KDHWQ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_it_wl_o_fqlyybNVBTTQ3

        • Windowr

          THE ASSYMETRY OF CONVERSION

          Xtianity? Way to set the tone. -_-

          “Many well-churched Christians leave Christianity. Are there any examples of members of atheist/humanist or freethought organisations who convert to Christianity?”

          Well-churched?

          If Steve thinks that no “true” Atheist has left Atheism because all the examples given to him don’t meet his criteria for being an Atheist, I fail to see how Steve thinks that argument is any more valid than the myth of “ex-gays don’t exist” but it is of course based on the myth that “Atheism = rationality”.

          Was Lee Strobel a “true” Atheist? Was C.S. Lewis? What about Carl Wieland? Russell Humphreys? Richard Peachey? David Catchpoole? Emiliu Silvestru? John Hartnett? Are the people mentioned here (including Dr. Jay Wile who I linked to earlier) “true” Atheists? Are any of these “true” Atheists? Perhaps the numerous testimonies that CMI has on its website are good examples?

          They “[didn’t] writ[e] articles critical of Christianity before they became Christians” so no, right?

          I might as well say Steve was never a “true” Christian and be done with it.

          And this piece that questions THE UNIQUENESS OF THE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE

          Browsing briefly through it and stumbling on its claims about morality, have this equally monolithic piece on Atheism.

          And over 290 books on deconversions, including books by former missionaries and ministers

          What am I supposed to do with them? What are they supposed to prove? Are they supposed to be examples of the “well-churched” ex-Christians? They are missionaries so they must be “well-churched”?

          Anyways, thanks for the Xtianity, it makes an excellent addition to the links I have against a particular feature of Atheism its evangelists love to deny.

  • Arthur

    Good post Nick. Your points are spot on.