Re: virus: Paul and James

Eric Boyd (
Mon, 29 Mar 1999 13:57:13 -0500


Snow Leopard <> writes << (re: arguments for atheism and the non-existence of Santa) I've seen iron-clad arguments against the ability for us to move. (For every distance, A to B, there is a midpoint, which one must get to first. To get to that midpoint, one must get to the 1/4 point, then the midpoint thereof, etc.) I'm not discounting science, I'm just saying that proofs aren't perfect. But what is?

That argument (known as "Zeno's Paradox" in it's more refined forms) doesn't work becuase the infinite sum 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + ... + 1*(1/2)^n + ... sums to a finite value (exactly two), i.e. you can cover the entire distance easily. However, that doesn't really matter, as even if that proof was right, it says nothing about the validity of the arguments for atheism, which you are welcome to read at: l

I've discussed these arguments in great depth with Christians before -- my general experience is that they are unable to to refute them, but unable to accept them either. All of these arguments are valid inside of their logical structure, and a common way out is to (1) deny that God conforms to the definition stipulated (often by saying "The Goodness of God is beyond human comprehension") or (2) simply say that God lies beyond logic or reason, thus putting Him firmly into the unknown and unknowable, which promptly ends the discussion.

A valid point, but I'd like you to consider something- most religious texts are written within one lifetime, by one or two people of similar culture. Because of the mindset, it should look less contridictory. Often, they're worse.

The Bible is an excellent example of this kind of thing -- there is a real progression of ideas from the earliest parts of the OT to the last parts of the NT. One of the most interesting ideological developments is that of the afterlife (eventually leading to Hell); you can read a fairly good article on it here:

(BTW, I highly recommend the Religious Tolerance website, very informative and well researched)

The X-files aliens often life in mutually exclusive universes. Tinkerbell couldn't have the correct organs to survive as a miniature winged humanoid with special powers.

Well, that's two, and neither of them were even gods! Come on, why are the IPU (PBuH), Eris, Thor, Mythras, Vishnu, Allah, and Kali all "not the right gods"? I personally think that Eris has a considerable amount going for her...

>Paul -- Romans 3:28, 5:1, Gala 2:15-16 (which actually comes
>out a whole section on the feud between Paul and James's
>supporters), Ephe 2:8-9

>James -- James 2:14-17, 2:24.

I've never heard of the book of Gala. The feud between James and Paul is only a little more evidence for the transition from a predominantly phaith-based meme-complex to a religious one.

Well, I was using "Gala" as short for Galatians (one of Paul's letters), I thought it was pretty obvious, but perhaps you should tell me what is more commonly used? Anyway, you are exactly right that the feud represented a transition from a real phaith to a dogmatic creed-centered "religion". The Jews "orthoprax" was changed into the Christians "orthodox", and the rest is "red in tooth and claw" history.

But, the real point here was that you said the every biblical discrepancy could be explained, i.e. the bible is internally consistent and always true. If you admit that Paul and James are at cross purposes, how do you know which author is right?

>Ironically, I think that Jesus would have agreed more with James than
>Paul -- as witnessed by his responses to questions like "what must I
>do to enter the kingdom of heaven?" (he invariably answers with
>"works", and sometimes also with "love", but never -- to my
>knowledge -- with "have faith")

You don't ask a question like "Hey, [Son of God], how do I enter [a lovely place most people don't believe in]" without some level of faith

True enough, but my point still holds. Jesus agrees with James that works are the primairy means by which we are saved. If Jesus agreed with Paul, he would never mention works -- becuase we cannot be saved by works, according to Paul.

BTW, before I forget, have you discovered yet what Jesus sent his disciples out to preach? What was his message to the people?


>If you do manage this, I have another nasty surprise ready just in
>time for easter... :-)

I will never hold out an argument from you, but I won't hold you to the
same standards.

Oh, the challenge is actually quite easy, on the surface of it. All I want is a continuous specific non-contradictory narritive of what happened during that every so important period of Christian history, easter.

The problems arise when one discovers that the four gospels are not very consistent in what they say happened.

Last time I checked, their was a significant dollar value attached to a successful solution to this puzzle -- on the order of ten thousand dollars or so, wagered from the pockets of various freethinkers. But, being a Christian, you shouldn't need that kind of incentive anyway. Easter is much too important a time for you to be unsure of exactly what happened!

However, before you graduate to such a difficult problem, you should first solve the Paul vs. James one!

I find the point valid, so allow me to restate it: I feel that a loving God would not let someone go to hell without some chance to understand him. Therefore, if I check into every philosophy and religion I encounter, then I will reach the right answer. I'm not talking light-out-of-heaven, I'm talking about some fanatic like me, from some over belief system explaining truth I haven't heard.

Well, I fully recommend a study of atheism and freethought literature then, beginning perhaps with Dan Barker's _Losing Faith in Faith_, and progressing eventually to some more difficult texts, such as books on atheistic arguments by George Smith.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think that that was somthing the church made up (as usual)

We solved that mystery here -- It comes from the English Book of Common Prayer.