Went to my first Inland Empire Atheists and Agnostics meet up today. It was a panel between two Christians and two Atheists discussing the historicity of scripture and I would say that the winning side was determined by who you came in believing to begin with, especially if you are a Christian.
One of the opening comments by one of the Christians was that you can’t objectively examine the historicity and validity of scripture if you don’t believe in miracles. This is exactly what I’ve seen with anyone who is putting forth the idea that scripture is true. And, in the end, this is what all the Christian arguments came down to: We assume God, therefore what we say about scripture and what scripture says is true. This, as the moderator pointed out, is special pleading which, of course, the Christians said it was not.
(Of course, later they predictably said that when Jesus said “generation” he didn’t mean “generation” and that’s usually how any sort of discussion goes with them…they get to make up their own meanings of words.)
I’m sure there are religious people who don’t, but I’ve been watching enough debates lately that this is the norm, not the rarity.
So, I left with more questions than answers, partially because I discovered that they video tape it for YouTube and that’s just not my thing, mostly because my list of questions was pretty long.
It seemed like they might have been young earth creationists (I’ve heard the arguments from old earth creationists, having been one, and theirs didn’t sound like those arguments) at any rate, they essentially denied the science and at one point demanded “What did everyone believe before 1930?” I’m not really sure how that’s relevant to the point but it would be easy to give them a history lesson of the church’s attempt to silence and impede science.
What I had hoped for, and feared, was irrevocable and unequivocal point by point proofs from secular archeologists that proved at least 20 or more facts posited by the Bible. There were some vague mentions of archeologists and their findings that proved scripture, but they were mostly anecdotal and even easily contradicted. (The city of Tyre, god said in scripture, would never be found. I suppose it depends on our definition of “found.”)
One quoted from Peter Stoner but couldn’t cite the source. Peter Stoner was a Christian scientist who, in the classic Christian manner, cherry picked “facts” that lined up with he beliefs. I will make a guess based on my limited study of Stoner and say that the book was the one Josh McDowell cited in his own book–Evidence that Demands a Verdict– (which is how Stoner became famous in the first place), Science Speaks (ok, I’m being sarcastic, that’s the only book he published as far as I can find). I’d love to bag on Stoner but that was the 60s and 70s. Our scientific knowledge has surpassed that of 50 years ago so far that I can’t help but feel a bit of pity for the man. He didn’t have all the facts back then (it might not have changed his mind, but it might have, see Michael Shermer of Skeptics Society who once was apparently quite the anti-evolutionist himself in the 70s.)
In the end, I wasn’t presented enough solid evidence to change my mind, and I realized why these sorts of debates used to always make me so nervous to watch…I knew the Christians were wrong and, no matter how they liked to tout it, they always lost. (Unless they could bring in some crazy guy with no scientific credentials…then they looked like they won.)
And, while the Christians might have gone away Christians, I hope that the ones in the audience who think like me might have had just a little bit of skepticism implanted in their brain that will be like the seeds planted in mine over the years that will grow until they bloom into full blown Atheism…the only truth you can come to once you’ve reasoned your religion every which way you can.