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Offline jr2

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Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Came across this from my brother's newsfeed, thought it rather interesting (well, specifically, the one about Religion being the #1 cause of war).

Discussions, please, but keep it civil.  I'm sure we can all agree to disagree and no one is going to change their mind here (probably), but at least there's plenty to discuss (and tons of comments on the original link, check that out as well if you want) :


Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)

Posted on October 1, 2013


I’m writing this post primarily for my own convenience. During my online journeys to r/atheism, “freethought” blogs, and beyond, I encounter the following arguments so frequently that it seems sensible to fact-check them all at once.

_____

The Claim: “Religion has been the primary cause of war and oppression throughout the history of mankind.”



The Truth: In their comprehensive Encyclopedia of Wars, Phillips and Axelrod document the recorded history of warfare. Of the 1,763 wars presented, a mere 7% involved a religious cause. When Islam is subtracted from the equation, that number drops to 3.2%.

In terms of casualties, religious wars account for only 2% of all people killed by warfare. This pales in comparison to the number of people who have been killed by secular dictators in the 20th century alone.

_____

The Claim: “Thanks to modern science, the days of religion are numbered. Humanity’s superstitious belief in miracles and sky gods will soon be replaced by an era of atheism and rationalism.”



The Truth: Modern atheists typically appeal to science™ as the authoritative source of human knowledge, meaning, and morality. So it’s ironic that this particular claim directly contradicts current scientific projections.

The following are expected net gains/losses in religious adherents, worldwide, from 2010-2050:

Christianity: +1,066,944,000 (net gain)
Islam: +1,001,101,000 (net gain)
Hinduism: +316,288,000 (net gain)
Agnosticism: -1,995,000 (net loss)
Buddhism: +61,405,000 (net gain)
Atheism: -4,039,000 (net loss)

(source: World Religion Database)

_____

The Claim: “The dark ages were a time of ignorance and superstition, thanks to religion’s negative influence on scientific progress.”



The Truth: Atheist writer Tim O’Neill responds to this claim eloquently in his excellent review of “God’s Philosophers”

Quote
It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one - scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.

_____

The Claim: “Jesus was a mythical figure. The New Testament stole most of its stories from other ancient sources.”



The Truth: These claims gained a lot of popularity thanks to the 2007 propaganda film “Zeitgeist” and its articulation of the Jesus myth hypothesis.

It turns out that the “facts” presented in the image above are almost entirely fabricated. I was able to refute most of them in about thirty minutes of searching on academic websites:

Horus

  • His mother (Isis) wasn’t a virgin. Isis married her brother (Osiris) and conceived Horus with him.
  • There’s no historical reference to a “star in the east,” or to Horus “walking on water.” Those are simply made up.
  • Horus was never crucified or resurrected. Actually, he never even died! The story is that he “merged” with the sun god, Ra.

Mithra

  • By most accounts, Mithra was born in either September or October.
  • There’s no historical account of Mithra having twelve disciples. That part is also made up.
  • Mithra wasn’t said to have been born of a virgin, but rather out of solid rock.
  • There’s no known record of a resurrection (or even of him having died).

Krishna

  • Krishna was from the royal family Mathura, and was the 8th son of Devaki and her husband Vasudeva.
  • There is no mention of a “star in the east” or a resurrection in the literature.
  • There are some references to him performing miracles, but that’s about it…

Dionysus

  • He wasn’t born of a virgin. His mother was Semele (a mortal), and his father was Zeus.
  • Dionysus died each winter and was resurrected in the spring. No mention of December 25.
  • There are plenty of references to Dionysus turning water into wine…but he was, after all, the Greek god of wine.

(Note: if any of the above is incomplete or inaccurate, please let me know.)

(Also: you can follow Well Spent Journey on Facebook for daily articles, links, quotes, etc.)

 

Offline The E

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
I have to ask: What's the point of posting this here? Neither the rabid religious nor the rabid anti-religious crowd are heavily represented here; Most of us on the atheist side of the debate already know better reasons for why we are atheists than those refuted here.
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Offline jr2

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
I'm pretty sure I've seen the equivalent of "if we could just get everyone to stop believing in religion, we could all live in peace" bandied around.  And, well, if no one finds it applicable, the thread just dies.  :doubt:  So as long as no one uses it as an excuse for flaming (and I did put a cautionary mention for those that might want to in the OP), it will either be interesting discussion material, or, it will fall through the cracks into the HLP dustbin.  I don't mind either way.  :D

 

Offline MP-Ryan

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
I think the lesson here is that people who are inclined to agree with simplistic interpretations/arguments on the Internet are notoriously bad at checking their facts, despite the fact that they are falling for those simplistic interpretations/arguments on the Internet, which is literally the most exhaustive collection of information ever assembled by humanity.

The irony is not lost.

Though it's worth pointing out that:
1.  The sophisticated argument is that organized religion is responsible for a large number of deaths and a significant amount of oppression around the world, both historically and in the present day, despite its mandate to improve the human condition and produce spiritual enlightenment.
2.  Those net numbers don't factor relative comparators; proportionally, while human population is going up, religious adherence is going down (though anyone who thinks it will ever hit zero is foolish).
3.  The Dark Ages were only 'dark' in the Christian world, and it had more to do with politics, plagues, and territorial war than religion.  The Arabs made remarkable scientific advances, and the Dark Ages are really only 'dark' when compared to the eras that followed - the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.  Anyone who is attributing the "lack of scientific advancement" in the Dark Ages to Christianity fails at history.
4.  Those are bad examples of how Christianity adopted other religious teachings into its own, but it doesn't mean that Christianity didn't do that.  The dates of Jesus' birth, death, and a number of other Christian religious holidays and traditions stem from popular pagan beliefs that were adopted into Christianity to ease conversions.  Jesus has been historically documented to have been born some time in the summer months; December 25 is close to both the winter solstice and the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which, much like Christmas, became something of a secular holiday even after the collapse of the Roman Empire.  The fact that someone on the Internet has botched Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Hindu mythology does not mean that the details and legends concerning Christ are unique or true (though it's pretty well documented that a person named Jesus, from Nazareth, existed around the period of 0 CE).  Jesus the man existed; Jesus as described in Biblical terms may well largely be a mythological figure.
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Offline Ghostavo

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
While MP-Ryan did a good job of pointing out the majority of the issues, there is one part that irks me.

The Truth: Modern atheists typically appeal to science™ as the authoritative source of human knowledge, meaning, and morality.

No atheist will deify science™. They may claim the scientific method is the best known way to accumulate knowledge regarding the universe, and that discussions of meaning (?) or morality are beyond the scope of it, apart from sociological considerations of such.

Atheists don't think science is god. This complaint of atheism is so prevalent among some theists that sometimes I wonder if they forget the meaning of the term atheist.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2014, 04:46:31 pm by Ghostavo »
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Offline Goober5000

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
I think the lesson here is that people who are inclined to agree with simplistic interpretations/arguments on the Internet are notoriously bad at checking their facts, despite the fact that they are falling for those simplistic interpretations/arguments on the Internet, which is literally the most exhaustive collection of information ever assembled by humanity.

The irony is not lost.
Indeed.  Though it can possibly be ascribed to the fact that, in times of plenty, people tend to get lazy.  This seems as true for information as it does for gathering food.

Quote
Though it's worth pointing out that:
1.  The sophisticated argument is that organized religion is responsible for a large number of deaths and a significant amount of oppression around the world, both historically and in the present day, despite its mandate to improve the human condition and produce spiritual enlightenment.
Well first, the oppression and deaths are usually more appropriately ascribed to other causes, as you yourself pointed out here.  Second, religion really has improved the human condition and produced spiritual enlightenment in numerous, tangible ways.  In just one example, slavery has been practiced throughout human history and in every human culture; yet in the space of one human lifetime it was completely outlawed throughout the British Empire (and via political pressure, most of the rest of the world) by William Wilberforce and others following the convictions of their religion.

Quote
2.  Those net numbers don't factor relative comparators; proportionally, while human population is going up, religious adherence is going down (though anyone who thinks it will ever hit zero is foolish).
This varies from country to country and from continent to continent.  While religion may be on the decline in North America and Europe, it is very much alive and growing in Africa and China.

Quote
4.  Those are bad examples of how Christianity adopted other religious teachings into its own, but it doesn't mean that Christianity didn't do that.  The dates of Jesus' birth, death, and a number of other Christian religious holidays and traditions stem from popular pagan beliefs that were adopted into Christianity to ease conversions.  Jesus has been historically documented to have been born some time in the summer months; December 25 is close to both the winter solstice and the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which, much like Christmas, became something of a secular holiday even after the collapse of the Roman Empire.  The fact that someone on the Internet has botched Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Hindu mythology does not mean that the details and legends concerning Christ are unique or true (though it's pretty well documented that a person named Jesus, from Nazareth, existed around the period of 0 CE).  Jesus the man existed; Jesus as described in Biblical terms may well largely be a mythological figure.
While not denying that Christianity has indeed adopted various pagan and secular traditions from time to time, I'll point out that there is copious historical and documentary evidence for the existence of Jesus as described in Biblical terms.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2014, 04:54:36 pm by Goober5000 »

 

Offline Luis Dias

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Yes, well while I think this post is sufficiently polemic to stirr trouble in many parts of the internet it will probably go besides many heads here (like mine), who despite being atheists, are equally not very fond of these simplistic arguments as well... I think all the "counter-points" you raise are valid ones, and I would even disagree with Ghostavo here (and perhaps be a little bit polemic) in declaring that militant atheism does engage sometimes in worshipping the altar of Science as the Big Alternative to Religion, which is something that usually ends up in weird places like Scientism.

One thing that comes to mind and is mildly annoying to me is the Carl Sagan Wannabes that populate the blogosphere, the youtubosphere and whatever mainstream media is still visioned by humans (ahah telly), with propagandizing the "real wonders" of the world with Saganesque gasps and sighs at the minor things, repeating the same mantras on how beautiful and perfect the scientific method is and so on and so on, and how religious thought is just medieval stuff still hanging around pulling us back towards the dark ages, etc. OK, folks, we get it, you like Science. Can you please move the **** on?

 

Offline Dragon

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
The problem with that kind of people is that they just replace "God" with "science" and think they're progressive. True atheism, one that truly lets you shed any "higher force" superstitions requires deep understanding of yourself and of the world around you, as well as acceptance of it, and of responsibility for yourself that comes with rejecting a supernatural authority. People incapable of that just end up finding a substitute for God instead of enlightenment. Often, it is science, because it seems "smart", but not always.

Also, regarding the net numbers quoted. At first I was surprised, but then realized just how long 40 years is. Population grows, in just about 15 years, it increased by 1 billion. Also notice, most of this population growth is in undeveloped countries, where religion is still very strong. Especially Africa matters here, I expect that most of the Christian/Muslim increase comes from there. There's also Middle East and South America, both highly religious and full of developing countries with high birth rates. Buddhism is gaining some footing in the west, but I think that the main increase comes from India (as with Hinduism) and China. Religion is in a sharp decline in developed nations, most of which also experience a steady decline in birth rates. As such, net numbers for the whole world present a rather blurry image of how religion adherence actually changes.

 

Offline zookeeper

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Well, 4 is interesting enough, I haven't seen that refuted before.

 

Offline Ghostavo

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Yes, well while I think this post is sufficiently polemic to stirr trouble in many parts of the internet it will probably go besides many heads here (like mine), who despite being atheists, are equally not very fond of these simplistic arguments as well... I think all the "counter-points" you raise are valid ones, and I would even disagree with Ghostavo here (and perhaps be a little bit polemic) in declaring that militant atheism does engage sometimes in worshipping the altar of Science as the Big Alternative to Religion, which is something that usually ends up in weird places like Scientism.

One thing that comes to mind and is mildly annoying to me is the Carl Sagan Wannabes that populate the blogosphere, the youtubosphere and whatever mainstream media is still visioned by humans (ahah telly), with propagandizing the "real wonders" of the world with Saganesque gasps and sighs at the minor things, repeating the same mantras on how beautiful and perfect the scientific method is and so on and so on, and how religious thought is just medieval stuff still hanging around pulling us back towards the dark ages, etc. OK, folks, we get it, you like Science. Can you please move the **** on?

Well, perhaps I'm committing a "no true scotsman" fallacy when I said no atheist. However, I'll state for the record that if you are deifying science, you are kind of going against the very definition of atheism. It seems kind of fuzzy.

Regarding your second paragraph, I think it's probably a reaction to the concerted attempt to undermine science in some parts of the world (e.g. creationism in the US, for instance) that causes some people to be vocal about science, rather than some sort of outburst of "sciency wonder".
« Last Edit: March 10, 2014, 05:52:22 pm by Ghostavo »
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Offline Luis Dias

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Oh about that prognosis that Atheism will go minus 4 million in 30 years and so on, well that is somewhat dubious and questionable. It is a model of the future, and the future, as so many people eloquently have said, is hard to predict. So to have a prediction as evidence of anything is really bad methodology. I understand why you (or someone else from whom you copied this idea) felt the need to do so, after all how do you "debunk" an handwaving prediction if not with some more methodological socially based and apparently sound prediction (from excel sheets!)? Well. Let me just retort. Some hundreds of years ago, atheist numbers were probably around zero plus minus a million fools. Now they are hundreds of millions (much of europe is atheist, for example). I'd say that the long term isn't as shadowy for atheism as you would imply.

Ghostavo, whatever it is, it feels fake, over-the-top and annoying.

 

Offline InsaneBaron

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Personally I find this pretty funny (being a Christian myself). Over the years I've seen pretty comically bad arguments on both sides of the religious debate, and these ones are pretty recurrent.

To be fair, I think the "long-term predictions" aren't likely to be particularly accurate. Which, I might add, has little to do with whether or not God exists; truth doesn't change based on popular opinion.

Quote from: Goober5000
Well first, the oppression and deaths are usually more appropriately ascribed to other causes, as you yourself pointed out here.  Second, religion really has improved the human condition and produced spiritual enlightenment in numerous, tangible ways.  In just one example, slavery has been practiced throughout human history and in every human culture; yet in the space of one human lifetime it was completely outlawed throughout the British Empire (and via political pressure, most of the rest of the world) by William Wilberforce and others following the convictions of their religion.

Great point. What bugs me a lot is the argument that "Here's something terrible that a Muslim did, here's something terrible that a Hindu did, here's something terrible that a Roman Polytheist did, so you should become an Atheist." A lot of Atheists make arguments against "Religion in general" which isn't particularly convincing to a specific religious person; if people in a religion other than mine are doing something terrible (or, more likely, if someone is claiming that they do so) it doesn't make me any less willing to follow my own religion.

and... great scott... no one is flaming! My faith in HLP is returning...
« Last Edit: March 11, 2014, 08:40:14 am by InsaneBaron »
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Offline MP-Ryan

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Quote
Though it's worth pointing out that:
1.  The sophisticated argument is that organized religion is responsible for a large number of deaths and a significant amount of oppression around the world, both historically and in the present day, despite its mandate to improve the human condition and produce spiritual enlightenment.
Well first, the oppression and deaths are usually more appropriately ascribed to other causes, as you yourself pointed out here.  Second, religion really has improved the human condition and produced spiritual enlightenment in numerous, tangible ways.  In just one example, slavery has been practiced throughout human history and in every human culture; yet in the space of one human lifetime it was completely outlawed throughout the British Empire (and via political pressure, most of the rest of the world) by William Wilberforce and others following the convictions of their religion.

The improvements brought by religion don't wipe away the deaths/oppression that is has brought, though - which are not attributable to other causes.  The Catholic Church burned an awful lot of people, and destroyed an awful lot of knowledge, primarily in the name of their religion.  Actually, the poor Catholic Church is citeable for many things; it also bears a considerable portion of the blame for the AIDS situation in Africa, as catholic leadership has repeatedly and decidedly denounced the use of condoms specifically as being against faith - a particularly egregious course of action when they hold large sway in that continent.  Continuing in just contemporary areas, fundamentalist Islamic countries hold 50% of their population hostage, denying basic rights like education, freedom of movement, and even liberty - again, done purely in the name of their faith.  Ironically, small sects of fundamentalist Jews do much the same thing.

So, while the argument that religion is a primary source of the majority of war is a fallacy, the argument that organized religion is itself responsible for a very large number of deaths, oppression, and abuse is definitely not.

Quote
This varies from country to country and from continent to continent.  While religion may be on the decline in North America and Europe, it is very much alive and growing in Africa and China.

Yes; but in terms of global population, the proportion of the population that is actively practicing in their religion is decreasing.  It's also worth pointing out that we have a considerable collection of demographic data now that shows - generally speaking - as countries industrialize and advance, the proportion of their populace that actively practices a religion drops.

Quote
While not denying that Christianity has indeed adopted various pagan and secular traditions from time to time, I'll point out that there is copious historical and documentary evidence for the existence of Jesus as described in Biblical terms.

By "as described in Biblical terms," I meant the quasi-magical abilities of Christ, not the political actions.  There is indeed a fair bit of evidence concerning his actions as man; on the contrary, there is virtually no evidence (discounting, of course, Biblical stories as being derived from unreliable narrators) of the more magical feats - walking on water, raising the dead, etc.
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Offline Flipside

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
The problem is that Religious people think Science is looked at like a religion by 'atheists', and Scientists insist that Religion lives up to their demands of proof and repeatability.

This is never, ever going to work.

e: I will state though that, in the case of Wars, there is a difference between wars started over religion and wars being perpetuated by ongoing religious differences. Most of Europe was embroiled in wars throughout the continent and beyond during the 1500-1600's, and though they were, strictly speaking, Geopolitical wars, those Protestant/Catholic differences were a large cog in the motors that kept them running.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2014, 01:28:03 pm by Flipside »

 

Offline Luis Dias

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Well the flipside of that (ahah couldn't resist sorry) is that protestantism and anglicanism whole point of existence was precisely one of geopolitical independence from southern europe influences from the get go. To state then that the religious differences and geopolitical matters are different "beasts" is ignoring this simple fact. Religions are, in a way, geopolitical identities dogmatized and fossilized.

 

Offline Flipside

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
That's the thing though, for a lot of human history the chief Religious force has been more synonymous with the chief Political force in most countries throughout the world, it's only pretty recently that people have tried to place a divide between the two. The Wars fought throughout the expansion years were two-fold in meaning. The primary purpose was to establish land for the country in question, but there was always an ulterior motive of enforcing or converting the religious beliefs of the Church that holds sway in that specific country.

So to try and say that a lot of wars were not religious but were political instead is kind of a faux-pas because until very recently it was sometimes very hard to distinguish between the two, because religion IS a political animal and always has been.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2014, 01:49:42 pm by Flipside »

 

Offline Aardwolf

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Dionysus

  • He wasn’t born of a virgin. His mother was Semele (a mortal), and his father was Zeus.

Mary bore God's child, and was a virgin.
Semele bore Zeus' child, and was _____.

Explain to me the distinction.

 

Offline StarSlayer

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Zeus has a long and storied history of sleeping around, and partaking in some pretty kinky ****.  In Jesus, God and Mary's case there was no intercourse, hence the whole "immaculate conception."
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Offline Rhymes

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
The phrase you're looking for is "virgin birth." Immaculate conception refers to something different, but related, namely that Mary was conceived free of original sin. 

Wikipedia link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception
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Offline MP-Ryan

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Re: Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet)
Zeus has a long and storied history of sleeping around, and partaking in some pretty kinky ****.  In Jesus, God and Mary's case there was no intercourse, hence the whole "immaculate conception."

Or Mary was just the first woman to be believed when she ended up pregnant but tearfully claimed didn't have sex, thus ruining the excuse for every woman after her.  Alternatively, there is an extremely remote biological possibility that Mary could indeed have produced a child asexually.  Too bad we didn't have DNA gels before 0 CE or we could have gotten to the bottom of the whole affair. ;)

Mary:  "Joe, I'm pregnant."
Joseph: "Sonofa*****!"
Mary:  "No, it was God!  Wait, what did you just call me?!"
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