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Theists vs. Atheists: Which Group Has the Burden of Proof? – Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Posted: October 17, 2021 at 4:47 pm

A common refrain from those atheists who are willing to debate theists is that theists, not atheists, have the burden of proof in the debate over Gods existence.

Internet atheist Matt Dillahunty made this claim in our recent debate. Regrettably, it looks doubtful that Dillahunty and I will debate again. He didnt fare wellhe had no real understanding of any of the ten classical proofs of Gods existence and in the wake of his confused and rambling attempts at exculpation he refuses to debate me again.

His reluctance is understandablehe was clearly shaken by the revelation that his rejection of the proofs of Gods existence isnt based on any actual understanding on his part of the arguments. Like all other internet atheists Ive encountered, Dillahunty is ignorant of the overwhelming evidence for Gods existence and is unwilling to admit his ignorance or correct it.

So, because I cant do it in a debate format, Ill address Dillahuntys claim that atheists have no burden of proof in the debate over Gods existence in this post.

Dillahunty said: Normally I point out in these debates that Im not here to defend a no because the burden of proof is on those who say there is a yes. Its not up to atheists to prove that a God doesnt exist.

Atheists own arguments against Gods existence are actually few and weakfor example, Dillahuntys favorite argument against God is the argument from Divine Hiddenness, which I discuss here. The argument boils down to this: if God exists, He would make atheists believe in Him. Atheists dont believe in Him, so He doesnt exist.

By this logic, atheists could make God exist by agreeing to believe in Him, and they could make Him go into and out of existence on alternate days if they believed and disbelieved in unison.

In order to elide the obvious conclusion that they dont have any good arguments, atheists claim that, in a debate, the burden of proof is always on the yes side, not the no side. Their argument is that it is difficult to prove a negative. But that is irrelevant to the question of Gods existence because both theists and atheists make positive assertions. The fundamental question is, Why is there something rather than nothing? Theists say God is the ground of existence and atheists say Nature is the ground of existence.

A negative claim by atheists We have no idea why there is something rather than nothing is a proclamation of ignorance, not an immunity idol. That is, it confers no tribal immunity from responsibility to provide evidence and reason in support of the view that the universe exists without God. Im ignorant is no substitute for a reasoned argument supported by evidence.

Ordinarily, both sides in a debate have an obligation to present evidence and logic to support their views. Under what circumstances would a participant in a debate really have no burden of proof?

To answer this, consider that a debate may have one or another primary goal:

One example of #2 is a legal proceeding in American law, in which only the prosecutor, but not the defendant, has a burden of proof. This is because of the presumption of innocence implied in the Fifth Amendmentinnocence is the default position. Thus an assertion of guilt incurs all the burden of proof.

Note that truth in the legal framework (context #2) is a secondary goal. The defendant may remain silent, even if by doing so he is concealing evidence. The trial is fair even if a guilty defendant is acquitted, provided the framework was observed.

So which kind of debate is the debate over the existence of God? It is certainly one in which truth is paramount the question of Gods existence is the most important question that can be asked, and there is no coherent framework no immunity idol that would exempt atheists from responsibility to use evidence and logic, just as theists do.

Only when truth is not the paramount goal of a debate is one side justifiably relieved of the burden of proof. So where does that leave atheists who claim they have no such burden?

Atheists need to make their case with as much evidence and logic as they can muster. When they are unable or afraid to do so, their silence can and should count against them.

Note: Heres the debate:

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Science can and does point to Gods existence. Michael Egnor: Natural science is not at all methodologically naturalist it routinely points to causes outside of nature. If we are to understand natural effects, we must be open to all kinds of causes, including causes that transcend nature.

The Divine Hiddenness argument against Gods existence = nonsense. God in Himself is immeasurably greater than we are, and He transcends all human knowledge. A God with whom we do not struggle who is not in some substantial and painful way hidden to us is not God but is a mere figment of our imagination.

and

Atheist Claims about logical fallacies often just mean: Shut Up! In the recent debate, Matt Dillahunty accuses theists of the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity because we examine his claims and find them incredible. What atheists fear most is having to explain themselves, and the invocation of fictitious fallacies is one of their favorite ways to evade scrutiny.

The debate to date:

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11. Is Evil in the World Simply the Absence of Good? – Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Posted: at 4:47 pm

In the Does God exist? debate between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), we are now looking at the nature of good, as well as the problem of evil. Also, can change be outside of time?

Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnors turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinass First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). Then, turning to the origin of the universe, Egnor challenged Dillahunty on the fact, accepted in science, that our universe began in a singularity (where Einsteins equations break down). He accused Dillahunty of using science as a crutch for his atheism. Then they discussed the Second Oldest Question (after Why is there something rather than nothing?) If there is a God, why is there evil?

And then, what is the true origin of our sense of morality? Besides, what if Dillahunty isnt really an atheist anyway? Egnor has come to doubt that. Egnor and Dillahunty then took questions.

And now, another perennial question came up again from the audience: Why is there evil?

A partial transcript, notes, and links to all previous portions of the debate follow:

Arjuna [podcast host]: Question for both. If indeed God is indirectly or even directly responsible for evil/harm that, if nothing else, he allowed man to mess up best guess as to why from your perspective.

Michael Egnor: So why does God allow evil?

Matt Dillahunty: Its easy for me. He didnt, but go ahead. [01:45:30]

Michael Egnor: The Thomistic understanding of evil is that its an absence of good. Its not a thing that exists independently in itself. Its a deficit of goodness. Gods creation necessarily fall short of goodness because if he created something perfectly good, He would just be creating himself. So all of creation necessarily has some evil in it because its not perfect. Its not God. I believe that God allows evil to accomplish good through it. [01:46:00]

That good can be difficult to see, but of course, we have a very small horizon that were able to see. But I believe that evil is allowed, in part, to allow free human agency to allow us to act in the image of God in the sense of being active agents with free will and that God allows natural evil as a way of challenging us, as a way of giving us burdens to bear, which builds character. Its a tough thing. Im not saying I like it, but I think that is a reasonable explanation for the existence of evil along with Gods existence. [01:47:00]

Note: Evil as the privation (absence) of good is a traditional philosophical position: In the neo-Platonic tradition, from Plato, through Plotinus, and from there integrated into mainstream Christian and Islamic theology, good is the only true reality, and evil is just the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of light, and cold is the absence of heat. Stack Exchange

Arjuna: For Michael Egnor. On my previous question, couldnt I simply communicate what I meant by justice and mercy to you and then you would know what I would mean by justice and mercy? Im not sure I understand.

Michael Egnor: Well, again, I think that abstract things like justice or mercy and mathematics are all things that dont have real physical instantiation in the world but are not just figments of our imagination.

Theyre not just figments in our minds because, if they were, we couldnt talk about them with other people because other people dont have access to our minds. There is some reality to them independently. Of course, thats the Augustinian argument for the existence of God, that those universal concepts exist in Gods mind. [01:47:30]

Note: This question revisits the debate between realism and nominalism (see Note here). Realists believe that concepts like honesty or the square root of 5 are real, even though they are abstract. Nominalists would say that they are only words for which we agree, roughly or specifically, on a meaning.

Arjuna: Next question at the Super Chat. Mike, you said that simultaneous change can occur outside of time but that doesnt make sense because simultaneous refers to a single point in time.

Michael Egnor: Thats a very good point. Change cant occur outside of time. Change depends on time.

Matt! Somebody has to give Matt some blood pressure medication, I tell you

So change itself is something that is within time. Causation, however, can initiate outside of time. But the first cause does not have to be an entity in time. In fact, it cant be an entity in time because if its in time, then its not the first cause. Its in a network of causes. [01:48:30]

Matt Dillahunty: Id recommend maybe not making medical declarations about what kind of medication I need because when I talked about change earlier, what I was saying was that a causal chain requires time, that change requires time and you fought me on it, and now, youre saying it. I already knew about concurrent change. [01:49:00]

Michael Egnor: Im saying that the first cause does not have to be in time

Matt Dillahunty: Yes, I am aware of that and I was aware of the special meaning that you go to.

Michael Egnor: And that the Aristotelian and Thomistic understanding of change

Matt Dillahunty: Its fine. People can rewind it and see if I was actually correct and whether you actually came around to agreeing with me. Its fine. They can rewind. [01:49:30]

Next: From a questioner: What is atheist Matts favorite argument for God?

The debate to date:

4: Egnor now tries to find out what Dillahunty actually knows About philosophical arguments for the existence of God, as he begins a rebuttal. Atheist Dillahunty appears unable to recall the philosophical arguments for Gods existence, which poses a challenge for Egnor in rebutting him.

10: Christian Egnor and atheist Dillahunty now take questions For example, What is Mr. Egnors best evidence of any god that would make me believe? Key questions turned on whether abstractions like right or wrong wrong represent realities. Its the perennial realism vs. nominalism question again.

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Science can and does point to Gods existence. Michael Egnor: Natural science is not at all methodologically naturalist it routinely points to causes outside of nature. If we are to understand natural effects, we must be open to all kinds of causes, including causes that transcend nature.

The Divine Hiddenness argument against Gods existence = nonsense. God in Himself is immeasurably greater than we are, and He transcends all human knowledge. A God with whom we do not struggle who is not in some substantial and painful way hidden to us is not God but is a mere figment of our imagination.

Atheist Claims about logical fallacies often just mean: Shut Up! In the recent debate, Matt Dillahunty accuses theists of the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity because we examine his claims and find them incredible. What atheists fear most is having to explain themselves, and the invocation of fictitious fallacies is one of their favorite ways to evade scrutiny.

and

Theists vs. atheists: Which group has the burden of proof? Because Dillahunty refuses to debate me again, Ill address his claim that atheists have no burden of proof in the debate over Gods existence in this post. Both atheists and theists make positive statements about the nature of the universe. If atheists shun the ensuing burden of proof, it should count against them.

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Terry Mattingly: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul: ‘God gave us the vaccine’ and smart believers know that – Joplin Globe

Posted: at 4:47 pm

In an age in which satire and news often overlap, it was hard to know what to make of this headline: New York Atheists Claim Religious Exemption From Vaccine After Governor Claims That Its From God.

This was satire, care of the Babylon Bee website. But the barbed humor focused on real quotes from the governor of New York that raised eyebrows on the cultural left and right.

We are not through this pandemic, said Gov. Kathy Hochul at a New York City megachurch. I prayed a lot to God during this time, and you know what God did answer our prayers. He made the smartest men and women the scientists, the doctors, the researchers he made them come up with a vaccine. That is from God to us and we must say, thank you, God.

All of you, yes, I know youre vaccinated, youre the smart ones. But you know theres people out there who arent listening to God. ... I need you to be my apostles. I need you to go out and talk about it and say, we owe this to each other. We love each other.

Clearly, the governor said, getting vaccinated was the best way to obey God in this crisis.

Writing at The Friendly Atheist website, Beth Stoneburner argued that this was not the kind of church-state sermonette that should trouble atheists and other secularists.

Is it a speech that atheists will appreciate? Probably not, she noted. But as far as a politician using the language of faith to reach an audience that desperately needs to get vaccinated but might not because other prominent Christians are feeding them lies its arguably effective.

If this blast of God-talk from a Democrat helps Christians get vaccinated when some of them might choose otherwise, then perhaps that outweighs any criticisms people may have of her speech, said Stoneburner.

At the same time, Hochuls explicitly Christian remarks on vaccines drew little or no news coverage, as opposed to the media firestorms that often greet faith-based statements by Republicans attempting to win the support of conservative Christians in similar settings.

The governor was using language that would almost certainly appeal to religious believers in both political parties, noted philosopher Francis Beckwith, who also teaches Church-State Studies at Baylor University. Hochul a liberal Catholic was also trying to reach out to members of a predominantly African-American megachurch.

There was sparse coverage of this speech because our media are blinded by their systematic secular privilege, said Beckwith, reached by email. The images and arguments used by the governor were simply incomprehensible to those who refuse to become culturally adept in the vocabulary and concepts of the theologically marginalized the powerful hope to colonize.

It also helps to know that Hochuls appearance took place in a setting frequently visited by Democrats and Republicans alike Brooklyns massive Christian Cultural Center. A New York Times profile of its pastor, the Rev. A.R. Bernard, once noted that this church, the largest in New York City, has long been considered a required stop on the way to City Hall and beyond.

In other words, it wasnt that surprising that the governor said what she said in the sacred setting in which she said it. However, her remarks were also connected by timing with the states decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers, including those attempting to claim exemptions based on their religious beliefs.

Hochul didnt address that issue at the Christian Cultural Center, but stressed that, I feel God has tapped me on the shoulder ... because everything I have done in life has been because of the grace of God leading me to that place, she said. The coronavirus pandemic has only strengthened that conviction.

Jesus taught us to love one another, stressed Hochul. How do you show that love but to care about each other enough to say, please get the vaccine because I love you and I want you to live, I want our kids to be safe when theyre in schools, I want to be safe when you go to a doctors office or to a hospital and are treated by somebody.

We have to solve this, my friends. I need every one of you.

Terry Mattingly leads GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tenn. He is a senior fellow at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.

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10 things you need to know about how Fatima’s ‘Miracle of the sun’ ended an Atheist regime – The Catholic Telegraph

Posted: at 4:47 pm

by CNA Staff

Fatima, Portugal, Oct 13, 2021 / 09:15 am

October 13, 1917 marked the last Marian apparition in Fatima, and the day in which thousands of people bore witness of the miracle of the dancing sun; a miracle that not only proved the validity of the Fatima Marian apparitions, but also shattered the prevalent belief at the time that God was no longer relevant.

Dr. Marco Daniel Duarte, a theologian and director of the Fatima Shrine museums told CNA these 10 things we need to know about the impact of the miracle during those days in Portugal.

1) If one were to open philosophy books during that period, they would likely read something akin to the concept conceived by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who boldly asserted in the late 1800s that God is dead.

2) Also, in 1917, Portugal, like the majority of the world, was embroiled in war. As World War I raged throughout Europe, Portugal found itself unable to maintain its initial neutrality and joined forces with the Allies. More that 220,000 Portuguese civilians died during the war; thousands due to food shortages, thousands more from the Spanish flu.

3) Few years before, in 1910, a revolution had led to the establishment of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910 and a new liberal constitution was drafted under the influence of Freemasonry, which sought to suppress the faith from public life.

4) Catholic churches and schools were seized by the government, and the wearing of clerics in public, the ringing of church bells, and the celebration of public religious festivals were banned. Between 1911-1916, nearly 2,000 priests, monks and nuns were killed by anti-Christian groups.

5) This was the backdrop against which Mary, in 1917, appeared to three shepherd children Lucia dos Santos, 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, 9 and 7 in a field in Fatima, Portugal, bringing with her requests for the recitation of the rosary, for sacrifices on behalf of sinners, and a secret regarding the fate of the world.

6) To prove that the apparitions were true, Mary promised the children that during the last of her six appearances she would provide a sign so people would believe in the apparitions and in her message. What happened on that day Oct. 13, 1917 has come to be known as the Miracle of the Sun, or the day the sun danced.

7) According to various accounts, a crowd of some 70,000 people believers and skeptics alike gathered to see the miracle that Mary had promised: The rainy sky cleared up, the clouds dispersed and the ground, which had been wet and muddy from the rain, was dried. A transparent veil came over the sun, making it easy to look at, and multi-colored lights were strewn across the landscape. The sun then began to spin, twirling in the sky, and at one point appeared to veer toward earth before jumping back to its place in the sky.

8) The stunning miracle was a direct, and very convincing contradiction to the atheistic regimes at the time, which is evidenced by the fact that the first newspaper to report on the miracle on a full front page was an anti-Catholic, Masonic newspaper in Lisbon called O Seculo.

9) The Miracle of the Sun, was understood by the people to be the seal, the guarantee that in fact those three children were telling the truth.

10) Even today, Fatima makes people change their perception of God, since one of the most important messages of the apparitions is that even if man has separated God from his existence, God is present in human history and doesnt abandon humanity.

This article was originally published on CNA on Oct. 12, 2017.

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Myth Buster: Employees Do Not Have to Be Affiliated With An Organized Religion to Be Entitled To A Religious Accommodation – JD Supra

Posted: at 4:47 pm

This is the third in a series of posts from Verrill with the purpose of helping to dispel myths that are currently circulating concerning employment laws and rules related to COVID-19 and vaccine mandates.

A myth we have been hearing from clients and friends is that in order for employees to be exempt from vaccine mandates for religious reasons, the employee must belong to a religious group that opposes the COVID vaccine. However, under Title VII, employees are entitled to religious accommodation regardless of whether they are a part of an organized religion.

To provide some context, under Title VII, employers are required to reasonably accommodate an applicants or employees sincerely held religious belief or practice, unless doing so would result in an undue hardship for the employers business. 42 U.S.C. 2000(e)(j). But what is a sincerely held religious belief?

It may surprise some readers that a sincerely held religious belief does not have to be affiliated with a formal religion. The agency responsible for enforcing Title VII, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), states The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.[1] Accordingly, employees can have a valid religious belief under Title VII even if they are the only person who has this belief.

Further, employers may not deny an employee a religious accommodation because the employer believes the religious belief to be unreasonable, incorrect or implausible. For example, if an employee refused to receive the vaccine because they believed the vaccine would violate their religious belief of my body is a temple, but the employer was aware that the employee regularly participated in activities that objectively harmed their body, like excessive alcohol consumption or drug usage, the employer cannot deny an accommodation based on that contradictory fact alone.

Even if employees are affiliated with a religious organization, it is important to note that employers cant deny an accommodation because the leader of that organization has a different belief than the employee. See EEOC v. Consol Energy Inc., 860 F.3d 131 (4th Cir. 2017). For example, a Catholic employee could have a religious belief that they are unable to receive any of the COVID vaccines due to concerns about their contents, even if the Vatican has issued statements indicating the overall moral duty is to receive a vaccination.

Additionally, Atheist employees have been found to have sincerely held religious beliefs and accordingly are protected under Title VII. See Reed v. Great Lakes Companies, Inc. 330 F.3d 931,934 (7th Cir. 2003) (If we think of religion as taking a position on divinity, then atheism is indeed a form of religion.), EEOC v. Townley Engg & Mfg. Co., 859 F.2d 610, 614-21 (9th Cir. 1988) (employer must accommodate an employees atheism; no undue hardship because excusing employee from services would not have cost anything nor caused a disruption), Young v. Sw. Sav. & Loan Assn, 509 F.2d 140 (5th Cir. 1975) (finding Title VII violated by requiring atheist employee to attend prayer portion of business meeting).

When evaluating whether an employees religious belief is sincerely held, it is important for employers to err on the side of caution and remember that there is not an extensive list of criteria a belief must meet in order to be protected by Title VII.

This information is current as of October 13, 2021.

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Myth Buster: Employees Do Not Have to Be Affiliated With An Organized Religion to Be Entitled To A Religious Accommodation - JD Supra

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NY governor: ‘God gave us the vaccine’ – Times Record News

Posted: at 4:47 pm

Terry Mattingly| Wichita Falls Times Record News

In an age in which satire and news often overlap, it was hard to know what to make of this headline: "New York Atheists Claim Religious Exemption From Vaccine After Governor Claims That It's From God."

This was satire, care of the Babylon Bee website. But the barbed humor focused on real quotes from the governor of New York that raised eyebrows on the cultural left and right.

"We are not through this pandemic," said Gov. Kathy Hochul, at a New York City megachurch. "I prayed a lot to God during this time and you know what God did answer our prayers. He made the smartest men and women, the scientists, the doctors, the researchers he made them come up with a vaccine. That is from God to us and we must say, thank you, God. ...

"All of you, yes, I know you're vaccinated, you're the smart ones. But you know there's people out there who aren't listening to God. ... I need you to be my apostles. I need you to go out and talk about it and say, we owe this to each other. We love each other."

Clearly, the governor said, getting vaccinated was the best way to obey God in this crisis.

Writing at The Friendly Atheist website, Beth Stoneburner argued that this was not the kind of church-state sermonette that should trouble atheists and other secularists.

"Is it a speech that atheists will appreciate? Probably not," she noted. "But as far as a politician using the language of faith to reach an audience that desperately needs to get vaccinated but might not because other prominent Christians are feeding them lies it's arguably effective."

If this blast of God-talk from a Democrat "helps Christians get vaccinated when some of them might choose otherwise, then perhaps that outweighs any criticisms people may have of her speech," said Stoneburner.

At the same time, Hochul's explicitly Christian remarks on vaccines drew little or no news coverage, as opposed to the media firestorms that often greet faith-based statements by Republicans attempting to win the support of conservative Christians in similar settings.

The governor was using language that would almost certainly appeal to religious believers in both political parties, noted philosopher Francis Beckwith,who also teaches Church-State Studies at Baylor University. Hochul a liberal Catholic was also trying to reach out to members of a predominantly African-American megachurch.

There was sparse coverage of this speech "because our media are blinded by their systematic secular privilege," said Beckwith, reached by email. The images and arguments used by the governor were "simply incomprehensible to those who refuse to become culturally adept in the vocabulary and concepts of the theologically marginalized the powerful hope to colonize."

It also helps to know that Hochul's appearance took place in a setting frequently visited by Democrats and Republicans alike Brooklyn's massive Christian Cultural Center. A New York Times profile of its pastor, the Rev. A.R. Bernard, once noted that this "church, the largest in New York City, has long been considered a required stop on the way to City Hall and beyond."

In other words, it wasn't that surprising that the governor said what she said in the sacred setting in which she said it. However, her remarks were also connected by timing with the state's decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all health-care workers, including those attempting to claim exemptions based on their religious beliefs.

Hochul didn't address that issue at the Christian Cultural Center, but stressed that, "I feel God has tapped me on the shoulder ... because everything I have done in life has been because of the Grace of God leading me to that place," she said.The coronavirus pandemic has only strengthened that conviction.

"Jesus taught us to love one another," stressed Hochul. "How do you show that love but to care about each other enough to say, please get the vaccine because I love you and I want you to live, I want our kids to be safe when they're in schools, I want to be safe when you go to a doctor's office or to a hospital and are treated by somebody. ...

"We have to solve this, my friends. I need every one of you."

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Sir Billy Connolly says he’s recently ‘got a feeling’ that there is an afterlife – The Mirror

Posted: at 4:47 pm

The veteran Scottish comedian, who previously said he was an atheist, mused: "It might be so lovely on the other side that you dont ever think about that.."

Image: Internet Unknown)

Comedy legend Sir Billy Connolly says he has begun to get the inkling there is an afterlife.

The 78-year-old, who was brought up as a Catholic, has previously described himself as an atheist and was openly critical of the Church.

Asked now about death and a possible afterlife, he said: Who knows? It might be so lovely on the other side that you dont ever think about that.

Im sure theres something. I dont know... in recent years, Ive just got a feeling that there is, that we dont just turn to sh*te.

Sir Billy added: Maybe this is my refusal to accept something so mundane, that Ill be squashed, like any other garden mite, and thatll be the end.

Well, that cant be what happens, can it?

He also said his Parkinsons disease has got so bad he can no longer play his beloved banjo. Sir Billy, who was a musician before becoming a stand-up comic, added he struggles to get out of a chair.

Image:

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Speaking about the neurological disorder, Sir Billy added: Sometimes I think of it like a strange animal.

One that sits beside you and says, How will you get on without this?, before it takes away something else.

I cant play the banjo any more. My handwritings gone. My yodellings gone... What works on a Monday to get you out of a chair doesnt always work by Wednesday. It can be a cruel disease.

He added: I fly a lot in my dreams. I fly in an upright position, with a power that comes out the soles of my feet.

Image:

In an Observer interview to promote his new memoirs, Windswept & Interesting, Sir Billy said he can still fish near his home in the US state of Florida but had to dictate the book to his daughters.

He is also still drawing and making artwork and is amazed there are people who collect it. In an ITV documentary called Its Been a Pleasure, Billy spoke last year about his new lease of life in Florida with wife Pamela Stephenson, 71.

Pamela said at the time: What he wants to do is take it easy.

He wants to fish on his dock in Florida, and enjoy the sunshine, watch television and drink tea and eat biscuits.

In a show Billy made for the BBC that aired in 2019, he said: My life, its slipping away and I can feel it and I should.

Im 75, Im near the end. Im a damn sight nearer the end than the beginning.

The comments worried fans. Sir Billy, a welder in his home city of Glasgow before his life in showbiz, responded by recording a video while playing a banjo. He said: Not dying, not dead, not slipping away. Sorry if I depressed you. Maybe I should have phrased it better.

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Sir Billy Connolly says he's recently 'got a feeling' that there is an afterlife - The Mirror

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Pearce’s Potshots #49: Homer & the Gospels | Dave Armstrong – Patheos

Posted: at 4:47 pm

Mythmaking Scholar Suggests the Story of Priam in the Iliad as the Model for a Fictional Joseph of Arimathea

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog,A Tippling Philosopher.HisAbout pagestates: Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turnhis hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality. His words will be inblue.

*****

Presently, I am responding to his article, Mimesis, the Gospels, and Their Greek Sources (10-14-21).

Iforgot literally forgot to put in my Joseph of Arimathea section in myResurrection bookthe very robust theory that Joseph of Arimathea was modelled mimetically on Priam from HomersIliad.

I really do need to release a second edition already because there issoso much about the Gospels is a case are emulating openly and intentionally these Greek sources. . . .

I have been privy to [Dennis R.] MacDonalds Magnum Opus on this, hopefully forthcoming from someone, somewhere. Its masterful and leaves you with no doubt. After all, when every Greek writer would have learned Greek through reading and writing the Greek epics and classics, such as Homers works, then there is no surprise that such works end up being used and reformulated into the Gospels.

Lex Lata in the combox:

My inexpert sense is that some of MacDonalds connections might be on the unduly tenuous and speculative side, but his overall argument is pretty solid. Theres no question the NT authors were, if not actually themselves, Hellenized Jews and Christians who were literate in Koine Greek. And, as noted in this video, becoming literate in Greek in antiquity routinely involved memorizing, reciting, transcribing, and translating elements of particularly renowned works, such as the Iliad and other literary and philosophical classics. So, unsurprisingly, there is not only a substantial likelihood of direct or indirect narrative mimesis in certain NT passages, but also a number of known borrowings from pagan writers like Menander and Epimenides.

Early Christianity wasnt merely Judaism 2.0it was a fusion of Hebrew and Greco-Roman traditions, cultures, rhetoric, and metaphysics.

St. Paul mentioned Menander and Epimenides in the course of his evangelism, in order to connect with his particular audience of Greek intellectuals (in his interaction with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens: Acts 17). But this is worlds away from supposedly grabbing elements in Greek literature as a basis of fabricated stories within an overall alleged fictional Gospel.

The scholar that Pearce is appealing to in this post is Dennis R MacDonald (born 1946). According to his Wikipedia page, he is the John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Claremont School of Theology inCalifornia. MacDonald proposes a theory wherein the earliest books of theNew Testamentwere responses to the Homeric Epics, including theGospel of Markand theActs of the Apostles. The methodology he pioneered is calledMimesis Criticism.

The article describes his central thesis:

InChristianizing Homer, MacDonald lays down his principles of literarymimesis, his methodology for comparing ancient texts. There are six aspects he examines 1) accessibility, 2) analogy, 3) density, 4) order, 5) distinctive traits, and 6) interpretability.[1]According to his hypothesis, not only was Homer readily available to the authors of the New Testament, but the Homeric epics would have been the basic texts upon which the New Testament authors learned to write Greek. MacDonald also argues that the number of common traits, the order in which they occur, and the distinctiveness thereof between the Homeric Texts and early Christian documents help to show that the New Testament writers were using Homeric models when writing various books.

In his earliest reviews, MacDonald only applied his hypothesis to works such asTobitand theActs of Peter. In later works, he posits the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospel of Mark, and Gospel of Luke merged two cultural classics of his time period in order to depict Jesus as more compassionate, powerful, noble, and inured to suffering than Odysseus.

MacDonalds most famous work, however, isThe Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. According to MacDonald, the Gospel of Mark is a deliberate and conscious anti-epic, an inversion of the Greek Bible of Homers Iliad and Odyssey, which in a sense updates and Judaizes the outdated heroic values presented by Homer, in the figure of a new hero.[4]

The book begins by examining the role that the Homeric Epics played in antiquitynamely that anybody who was considered educated at the time learned to read and write, and they did so by studying the Odyssey and Iliad. Students were expected, not only to understand the epics, but be able to rewrite the stories in their own words. Rewriting the Homeric Epics was commonplace and accepted in Biblical times.[4]

. . . Marks purpose, he argues, in creating so many stories about Jesus was to demonstrate how superior [Jesus] was to Greek heroes. Few readers of Mark fail to see how he portrays Jesus as superior to Jewish worthies He does the same for Greek heroes.[1]

The same article presents withering criticism of MacDonalds work from other scholars:

MacDonalds thesis has not found acceptance and has received strong criticism by other scholars.[5][6][7][8][9]Karl Olav Sandnes notes the vague nature of alleged parallels as the Achilles heel of the slippery project. He has also questioned the nature of the alleged paralleled motifs, seeing MacDonalds interpretations of common motives. He states, His [MacDonalds] reading is fascinating and contributes to a reader-orientated exegesis. But he fails to demonstrate authorial intention while he, in fact, neglects the OT intertextuality that is broadcast in this literature.

Daniel Gullotta from Stanford similarly writes MacDonalds list of unconvincing comparisons goes on and has been noted by numerous critics. Despite MacDonalds worthy call for scholars to reexamine the educational practices of the ancient world, all of the evidence renders his position of Homeric influential dominance untenable.[10]

Adam Winn, though adopting MacDonalds methods of mimetic criticism, concluded after a detailed analysis of MacDonalds theses and comparisons between Homer and Mark that MacDonald is unable to provide a single example of clear and obvious Markan interpretation of Homer because MacDonalds evidence is at best suggestive, it will ultimately convince few.[11]

David Litwa argues that problematic parts of MacDonalds thesis include that he construes both large ranges of similarity in addition to large range of difference as evidence for parallel, that he alters his parallels in order to make them more convincing like suggesting that Jesus walking on water is comparable to Athena and Hermes flying above water, that he has an inconsistent application of his own six criteria (where he often uses only one or two to establish parallel and thus relies largely on loose structural standards of similarity), and that he often has completely unconvincing parallels such as his comparison of Odysseus on a floating island to Jesus sitting in a boat that floats on water.[12]

What has Pearce so excited that he can hardly contain himself, is MacDonalds comparison of Joseph of Arimathea with the character Priam, in Homers Iliad. Encyclopaedia Britannica (Priam) describes the material that is the basis for such a comparison:

In the final year of the conflict, Priam saw 13 sons die: the Greek warriorAchilleskilled Polydorus,Lycaon, and Hector within one day. The death of Hector, which signified the end of Troys hopes, also broke the spirit of the king. Priams paternal love impelled him to brave the savage anger of Achilles and to ransom the corpse of Hector; Achilles, respecting the old mans feelings and foreseeing his own fathers sorrows, returned the corpse.

This is compared to the Gospel accounts:

Matthew 27:57-58 (RSV) When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. [58] He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. (cf. Mk 15:43-45; Lk 23:50-52; Jn 19:38)

Now note how MacDonald accuses the Gospel writers of pure fabrication:

Although it is possible that a woman of this name [Mary Magdalene] once existed, it is more likely that Mark created her to populate his narrative.

. . . It will not be Joseph of Nazareth who buries him but Joseph of Arimathea. Marks penchant for creating characters to contrast with Jesus family and closest disciples applies also to the names of the women at the tomb. (The Gospels and Homer, 2014, p. 95)

Id like to know how one proves that a named person didnt exist, but was merely made up? On what basis is that done? How does MacDonald know that it is more likely that Mark made up or created Mary Magdalene? The Christian would say that if the Gospel writers historical accuracy has been established times without number from archaeology and historical verification (as they assuredly have been), then they can be trusted in cases where they mention a person or event for the first time. MacDonalds skepticism is arbitrary and unfounded.

He asserts this numerous times in this book:

Mark . . . adds fifteen other place names, five of which are not independently attested: Dalmanoutha, Bethphage, Arimathea, Gethsemane, and Golgotha. As we shall see, he likely created them. (Ibid., p. 2)

In fact, Bethphage occurs in several Talmudic passages where it may be inferred that it was near but outside Jerusalem; it was at the Sabbatical distance limit East of Jerusalem, and was surrounded by some kind of wall. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Bethphage). The Talmud was based on Jewish religious teachings and commentary that was transmitted orally for centuries (Encyclopaedia Britannica: Jerusalem Talmud), Thus. MacDonald is wrong about its non-biblical attestation.

[T]he Markan Evangelist apparently did not inherit most of his characters and episodes from antecedent traditions and texts; he created them by imitating classical Greek poetry, especially the Homeric epics, the Odyssey above all. (Ibid., p. 2)

She assumes that Mark inherited this tale from oral tradition, but more than likely he created it in imitation of Il. [Iliad] 24. (p. 101)

Virtually all solutions have presumed that the anointing story [Mt 26:6-13] was pre-Markan, but it is more likely that Mark himself created it with an eye to Eurycleias anointing of Odysseus . . . (p. 156)

If Mark created Jesus prayer from antecedents in Od. [Odyssey] 10.496-501 . . . (p. 223)

Luke . . . apparently created a story . . . (p. 239)

Mark . . . more than likely created his account from literary models. (p. 241)

If Mark created the choice between Jesus and Barabbas by imitating the suitors choice between Odysseus and the violent beggar Irus . . . (p. 297)

If Mark were responsible for creating the episode of Judass betrayal after the treachery of Homers Melanthius . . . (p. 318)

Protestant theologian Ronald V. Huggins offers an exhaustive critique of MacDonalds questioning of the existence of Judas Iscariot and the stories about him: Did Judas Exist? A Friendly Critique of Dennis R. MacDonalds Easter Time Blog (4-22-16). Other critical pieces:

Homer in the New Testament? (Margaret M. Mitchell, The Journal of Religion,Volume 83, Number 2 Apr., 2003).

Imitatio Homeri? An Appraisal of Dennis R. MacDonalds Mimesis Criticism (Karl Sandnes, December 2005, Journal of Biblical Literature 124(4):715).

Arbitrary claims that the Gospel writers simply made up fictional elements in real-life persons, based on characters in Homer or other Greek writers cant be proven. Its subjective mush: like much of atheist exegesis of the Bible and delusional, fictional, self-serving theories of Bible-writing.

The ridiculous notion that any conceivable similarity with pagan Greek literature in the Bible must be because of deliberate causation (and furthermore, in the service of supposed invention of mythical persons and events),is the fallacy (among others, no doubt) ofpost hoc ergo propter hoc(Latin: after this, therefore because of this).

Atheists (in this case and others, drawing from skeptical, anti-traditional, heterodox Christian scholars) have all these theories about how the biblical stories came to be, without any hard evidence that it is so. They dont, of course, believe in revelation as we do. We think the Bible is historically reliable (for various reasons: independent confirmation from history, archaeology, etc.), and believe in faith that it is inspired, in part based on this reliability, and so we accept its report on miracles.

With the atheist, on the other hand, with no God and no miracles or supernatural phenomena, the burden is to prove things strictly based on the hard evidence of historiography, texts, etc.What evidence would there be for this theory? None that I can see . . . So there was a similarity between Joseph asking for the body of Jesus and a character in The Iliad.Sowhat? One could findhundredsof similarities, and they all would prove exactlynothing.

To some extent its true that the gospels were influenced by Greco-Roman literary culture. Influence is always a factor: just by the nature of ideas and thinking persons. What orthodox Christians oppose is the notion of deliberate mythmaking.

***

Photo credit: Marble terminal bust of Homer. Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original of the 2nd c. BC. From Baiae, Italy. In the British Museum [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce enlists NT scholar Dennis R. MacDonald, who writes on Homer & the Gospels & posits widespread mythical creation in the Gospels.

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Pearce's Potshots #49: Homer & the Gospels | Dave Armstrong - Patheos

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Dean of Toledo resigns after dance-video ‘error’ in cathedral – Church Times

Posted: at 4:47 pm

THE Dean of Toledo Cathedral, Fr Juan Miguel Ferrer, has been forced to resign by his archbishop, after he allowed a national rap music star to film a dance video in his cathedral.

A press release from the archdiocese of Toledo wrote on Tuesday said: He requests institutional forgiveness, in his own name and in that of the cathedral chapter, for errors and faults committed over recent days by word, deed and omission.

We also consider it appropriate to reaffirm that, under internal chapter regulations, all money obtained from extraordinary activities in the cathedral is used for social purposes.

The archdiocese was confirming the immediate departure of Fr Juan Miguel Ferrer. Fr Ferrer had permitted the recording of the video Ateo (Atheist) by Antn lvarez Alfaro, better known as C. Tangana, for a reported fee of 15,000, in the Gothic cathedral, built between 1226 and 1493. The ten-minute film, watched by more than 3.5 million viewers in its first three days of release, showed the rapper in a sensual dance with an Argentine actor-singer, Nathy Peluso, overlooked by leering figures in clerical dress.

In a weekend statement, Fr Ferrer said that he believed that the video portrayed a conversion through human love for containing the lines I was an atheist but now I believe, since a miracle like you had to come from heaven.

The 60-year-old Dean, a former under-secretary of the Vaticans Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said that its provocative visual language should be accepted by the Church as the language of contemporary culture, which can produce good in those far away.

The Dean was overruled by the Archbishop of Toledo, Mgr Francisco Cerro Chaves, who said that he had been completely unaware of plans to make the video in the cathedral.

I deeply regret these events, and disapprove of the images recorded in our archdioceses primary place of worship, the Archbishop told Spanish media.

I humbly and sincerely ask forgiveness from all lay faithful, consecrated persons, and priests, who feel justly wounded by this misuse of a sacred space.

The video, said to have been inspired by Judgement Day, a painting in Toledo cathedral by the Renaissance artist Juan de Borgoa (1470-1536), includes a naked (but pixelated) Ms Peloso holding C. Tanganas severed head although this part of the video was not shot in the cathedral.

Speaking on Tuesday, Fr Ferrer said that he stood by his earlier explanation for allowing the video, but accepted that there had been communication failures caused by the absence of cathedral supervisors during the filming, and that future out-of-the-ordinary types of act should require the archdioceses approval.

The Archbishop said that penitential masses would be held in Toledo as an invitation to conversion, reparation for sins, and purification after the incident, which was the subject of a protest at an open-air recitation of the rosary on Sunday.

Christian churches have been used previously, often without permission, as video settings. In February 2012, members of the Russian feminist group Pussy Riot were given prison sentences for staging a performance inside the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, in Moscow (News, 27 April).

In January 2017, St Jozefs, in the Dutch city of Tilburg, was closed and re-sanctified after its confessional corner was used for a hardcore porn film.

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What Harvards humanist chaplain shows about atheism in America – The Conversation US

Posted: September 27, 2021 at 5:59 pm

At the end of August 2021, Harvard Universitys organization of chaplains unanimously elected Greg Epstein as president. Epstein the atheist, humanist author of Good Without God will be responsible for coordinating the schools more than 40 chaplains, who represent a broad range of religious backgrounds.

His election captured media attention, prompting articles in several outlets such as NPR, The New Yorker, the Daily Mail and the Jewish Exponent . Some portrayed the idea of an atheist chaplain as one more battle in the culture wars.

But the trends that Epsteins position reflects are not new. Non-religious Americans, sometimes referred to as nones, have grown from 7% of the population in 1970 to more than 25% today. Fully 35% of millennials say they are not affiliated with any particular religion.

They are part of a diverse group thats changing ideas about what it means to be nonreligious.

As sociologists of religion, we have studied these transitions and their implications. A recent study with colleagues at the University of Minnesota shows that, while Americans are becoming more comfortable with alternative forms of spirituality, they are less comfortable with those they see as entirely secular.

We argue that Epsteins election represents a shift that shows the increasing visibility and acceptance of nonreligious Americans. At the same time, the commotion around his position shows many Americans lingering moral unease about atheism.

Epstein seems to understand this cultural dilemma and emphasizes his commitments to social justice and humanism, a philosophy that rejects supernatural beliefs and seeks to promote the greater good. In doing so, he is becoming a spokesman for something new in the American context: an atheism that explicitly emphasizes its morality.

Atheism has long generated contention in the United States, going back to colonial times. But the late 19th centurys Golden Age of freethought brought the first widespread public expressions of skepticism toward religion. Lawyer and public orator Robert Ingersoll drew religious leaders ire as he lectured on agnosticism in sold-out halls across the country.

In the 1920s, the Scopes Monkey Trial over the teaching of Darwins theory of evolution in public schools highlighted struggles over religious authority in Americas laws and institutions. Meanwhile, Black skeptics of religion, often overlooked by scholars, influenced artists like Zora Neal Hurston and, later, James Baldwin. Many Americans know of Madalyn Murray OHair, who successfully challenged mandated Christian prayer and Bible readings in public schools in the 1960s and founded the organization that became American Atheists.

More recently, a growing number of atheist and humanist organizations have promoted the separation of church and state, fought discrimination, supported pro-science policies and encouraged public figures to come out as atheist.

Black atheists, not always feeling welcome in white-led organizations, have formed their own, often centered on social justice.

Despite this increasing organization and visibility, a large percentage of Americans do not trust atheists to be good neighbors and citizens. A national survey in 2014 found that 42% of Americans said atheists did not share their vision of American society, and 44% would not want their child marrying an atheist. Those percentages were virtually unchanged in a 2019 follow-up.

These attitudes affect young people like those to whom Epstein ministers. A third of atheists under age 25 report experiencing discrimination at school, and over 40% say they sometimes hide their nonreligious identity for fear of stigma.

As a chaplain, Epsteins job is to provide spiritual guidance and moral council to students, with a special focus on those who do not identify with a religious tradition. He himself identifies as an atheist, but also as a humanist.

In U.S. society, humanism is increasingly accepted as a positive, and moral, belief system, which some react to more favorably than to atheism, which is perceived as a rejection of religion. And a handful of Americas college campuses now have humanist chaplains.

But atheism remains more controversial in the United States, and an atheist chaplain is a harder sell. Efforts to include atheist chaplains in the military, for example, have not succeeded.

Epstein, a vocal advocate for humanism, appears to be pushing back against Americans persistent moral concerns about atheism identified in the research from the University of Minnesota.

His book openly challenges those views by arguing that atheism is a morally anchoring identity for people around the world. He talks at length about how humanism can motivate concern for racial justice and has called for political leaders on the left to embrace the nonreligious as an important, values-motivated constituency.

This marks a different approach from more militant high-profile atheists, particularly the Brights movement and the so-called New Atheist intellectuals like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. Epstein does not position himself against religion but seeks to cooperate with religious leaders on matters of common moral concern.

Its too soon to say whether Epsteins strategy of linking atheism to humanism, justice and morality will be successful in changing attitudes toward atheists. It is, however, likely to keep him in the public eye, a symbol of the transition in how Americans relate to organized religion.

[3 media outlets, 1 religion newsletter. Get stories from The Conversation, AP and RNS.]

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