Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Postmortem on Avalos

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Hector Avalos writes:
If Triablogue were as wise, they might have Dr. Hoffmeier to guest post on their behalf. But perhaps Triablogue does not have enough credibility to attract experts on their side.
A few preliminaries are in order:

i) At the time Avalos responded to Peter and me, he was not, himself, a guest blogger at DC. Instead, he emailed Loftus and Loftus posted his email. Therefore, if Hector's own conduct is any yardstick, I don't need to invite an expert to guest post on my behalf. It would be sufficient for me to do what Loftus and Avalos did.

ii) An expert doesn't have to directly interact with Hector's material. The question at issue is the relationship, if any, between Exod 2 and the Legend of Sargon. There is preexisting scholarship that comments on that issue.

iii) Apropos (i)-(ii), in this post I'm going to consolidate information on the issue from several different sources.

iv) Notice that although different scholars offer different explanations, not a single scholar I cite agrees with Hector's explanation.

[The first four items feature email correspondences while the latter four feature excerpts from published works or articles.]
  1. Duane Garrett:

    Dr. Garrett wrote me back last night. He has a forthcoming commentary on Exodus in which he dismantles the argument of Brian Lewis. Stay tuned!

  2. James Hoffmeier:
    Re: Exod 2 & the legend of Sargon
    From: James Hoffmeier
    To: Hays
    Date: Sun, 27 Jul 2008 4:50 pm

    Greetings,

    I suspect that Avalos is so ideologically committed to his anti-biblical stance that objectivity is gone, and thus to bring evidence that conflicts with his view to the discussion will simply be ignored. His statements about the dates of biblical books as you know is theory, not fact. Something Avalos and many like him seem to forget.

    Indeed the Sargon legend may well be the earliest example of the exposed child motif, but that does not mean that Exodus 2 could not be completely independent. To ignore the clear Egyptian linguistic elements of Exodus 2 (one that does not fit a Mesopotamian setting) is sheer obscurantism!

    Blessings,

    James Hoffmeier
  3. Richard Hess:
    Re: Exod 2 and the legend of Sargon
    From: Hess, Rick
    To: Hays
    Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2008 5:22 pm

    Dear Steve:

    I am not sure who you are but I did receive your long retort from Avalos.

    I am not quite sure what the point here is.  The Sargon story is generally as Avalos says.  Lewis' book has been around and well known.  He cites dozens of Sargon story types in the ancient Near East and later, ending with the story of Superman's birth in DC comics.  The form of the Sargon legend involves a first person intro and an epilogue that concludes with 1 of the 4: blessings/curses, didactic lesson, temple donation, or prophecy.  None of this applies to the Moses story; so if there was a borrowing it was more general than Avalos would like to admit.  The general motif of the rescue of a leader as a baby and his/her being brought up by strangers is certainly well known in the ancient world and around the rest of the world.  So what?  No doubt the author and early readers of the exodus account saw the motif in the Moses story.  That says nothing about its historicity.

    Avalos seems to find the absence of a pre-Hellenistic citation of Moses outside the Hebrew Bible evidence for the lack of historicity of Moses.  Needless to say, this is exactly what Thomas Thompson wrote of David in 1992 when he published his book denying any historical value to the biblical account of pre-exilic Israel.  David never existed.  Then a year later in July of 1993 Avraham Biran discovered the Tel Dan stele dating from the 9th century B.C. And recording mention of the "house of David."  Again, the minimalists tried every kind of way to deny this, but a straightforward reading of the Aramaic text and a comparison with the only known parallel for the two words translated "house of David" has resulted in nearly all scholars agreeing that the dynasty of David was known in the 9th century, within a century and a half of the life of David himself.  Perhaps some day the same sort of thing will happen with Moses.  Whether it does or not, one is not entitled to conclude that someone is not historical just because they are not mentioned outside the Bible before the Hellenistic period.  Manetho's Hellenistic history of Egypt comes to mind as another example.  Before the decipherment of Egyptian in the 19th century, the same thing could be said about the names and numbers of Egyptian rulers and dynasties.  They were only known from the Hellenistic period (and a few from the Bible).  But now Manetho's history has been validated by many Egyptian texts covering about 3,000 years.  We will probably not see the same numbers of texts ever discovered in Palestine.  Not only is this because it is a poorer and smaller country, but because most Iron Age writing there was done on papyri and leather, neither of which has survived anywhere in the region except in the driest spot of the Dead Sea.  

    I hope this helps some.

    Best wishes,

    Rick Hess
  4. John Currid:
    RE: Exod 2 & the legend of Sargon
    From: John Currid
    To: Hays
    Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2008 7:06 am

    Steve:

    Indeed, within ANE literature there is a common motif of a birth story in which a child is under threat but survives to become king or leader of his people. The Legend of Sargon is such a story, and many scholars identify it as the very basis of Exodus 2.  To go from Exodus to Mesopotamian literature has been the bias of ANE scholarship for a long time (creation and Enuma Elish; flood and Epic of Gilgamesh, etc.).  But the reality is, and many do not want to admit it, is that Exodus is set in Egypt (seems obvious, but apparently not!) -- the book is imbued with Egyptianisms (see my Ancient Egypt and OT, for example).  Consequently, I think that we ought to be looking in Egyptian literature for any such paradigm:  The Myth of Horus contains similar motifs as Exodus 2.
     
    It is at this point that I would diverge from Hoffmeier and others.  The Myth of Horus and Exodus 2 are accounts of a child being cast into the waters and then becoming a deliverer/king.  The writer of Exodus, who knew Egypt well, would have been familiar with the Egyptian text.  So, how do we explain that association?  Some argue, like Hoffmeier, that there is no relationship; others say it is simply crass plagiarism on the part of the Bible.  I think not.  What then was the Mosaic author doing?  He was using motifs and themes that were common ones in relating the birth of Moses -- certainly he was recording history, but perhaps more than that.  Perhaps this story is a polemic against Egyptian (and, more generally, ANE literature) literature and legend.  It may be, in particular, an ironic, belligerent critique of a well-known Egyptian story.  What was mere myth in Egypt was true history in Israel -- God truly called a deliverer, saved him from danger, and caused him to lead and deliver his people.  Myth in Egypt thus became fact in Israel. 

    I believe polemical theology may in fact be an important answer to such issues (vs. Enns and others). 

    I hope this helps even in some small way.

    John
  5. Allen Ross:
    The circumstances of the saving of the child Moses has prompted several attempts by scholars to compare the material to the Sargon myth See R. F. Johnson, "Moses," in IDB; for the text see L. W. King, Chronicles Concerning Early Babylonian Kings, Vol. 2, Texts and Translations (London: Luzac and Co., 1907), pp. 87-90. Those who see the narrative using the Sargon story's pattern would be saying that the account presents Moses in imagery common to the ancient world's expectations of extraordinary achievement and deliverance. In the Sargon story the infant's mother put him into the basket in the river; he was loved by the gods and destined for greatness. Saying Israel used this would indicate that the account in Exodus was fiction, and that would be an unacceptable determination. But there are also difficulties with the Sargon comparison, not the least of which is the fact that there are no other samples of this type of story for comparison. First, the meaning and function of the story are unclear. Second, there is no threat to the child Sargon. The account simply shows how a child was exposed, rescued, nurtured, and became king (see Brevard Childs' commentary on Exodus). Third, other details do not fit: Moses is never completely abandoned, never out of the care of his parents; and the finder is a princess and not a goddess. It seems unlikely that two stories, and only two, that have some similar motifs would be sufficient data to make up a whole genre. Moreover, if we do not know the precise function and meaning of the Sargon story, it is almost impossible to use it as a pattern for the biblical account. The idea of a mother abandoning a child to the river would have been a fairly common thing to do, for that is where the women of the town would be washing their clothes or bathing. If someone wanted to be sure the infant was discovered by a sympathetic woman, there would be no better setting (see A. Cole, Exodus, p. 57). While we may not be dealing with a genre of story-telling here, it is possible that Exodus 2 might have drawn on some of the motifs and forms of the other account to describe the actual event in the sparing of Moses--if they knew of it. If so it would show that Moses was cast in the form of the greats of the past.

    [Source.]
  6. Alan Millard:
    Some scholars suggested that the story was written to glorify him. Indeed, a few scholars still maintain this position…Gaston Maspero supposed that the Legend of Sargon projects the deeds of Sargon II into a remote past and says nothing about an earlier king (The Dawn of Civilisation [London: SPCK, 1885]), p. 599. See Lewis, Sargon Legend, pp. 101–107, for a similar view.

    What of the birth legend of Sargon? It is hardly likely that documentation of this will appear. The story is one common in various forms in folklore and is obviously comparable to the story of Moses in the bulrushes. Before we dismiss either or both as fiction, however, we should note that Babylonia and Egypt are both riverine cultures and that putting the baby in a waterproof basket might be a slightly more satisfactory way to dispose of an infant than throwing it on the rubbish heap, which was more usual. Today unwanted babies are frequently dumped on hospital doorsteps or in other public places in the hope that they will be rescued. The story of the foundling rising to eminence may be a motif of folklore, but that is surely because it is a story that occurs repeatedly in real life.

    [Source.]
  7. Tremper Longman:
    While certainly a folklore theme, the practice of placing a child in the river may have been a widely practiced form of abandonment, similar to the more modern practice of leaving a child on the doorstep of a house.

    [Source: T. Longman, Fictional Akkadian Autobiography, 56.]
  8. Reuters:
    Medieval foundling wheels were wooden cylinders set in the wall of a convent or church. The baby was placed in the cylinder from the outside and the cylinder was turned towards the inside, where nuns would care for the baby and seek new parents.

    The first foundling wheel was believed to have been installed in Rome in 1198 at the orders of Pope Innocent III who was alarmed at the number of newborns, usually illegitimate, found caught in the nets of fishermen on the River Tiber.

    [Source.]

23 comments:

  1. Here's the comment that I posted at Debunking Christianity, for what it's worth:

    I must open with a disclaimer: I am not a historian or a Bible scholar. And as someone trained in the scientific method, what I've seen so far presented as evidence for Bible stories having been derived from other myths is plausible, but inconclusive: inferences can be drawn, but there is simply not enough data to warrant the definitive assertion that, say, the story of Moses was derived from the story of Sargon. I would guess that there is a connection, but I doubt it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

    That said, what struck me at the Triablogue post were two emails they posted as support for their view that the Biblical account was "correct". John Currid said:

    What was mere myth in Egypt was true history in Israel -- God truly called a deliverer, saved him from danger, and caused him to lead and deliver his people. Myth in Egypt thus became fact in Israel.

    And Allen Ross said:

    In the Sargon story the infant's mother put him into the basket in the river; he was loved by the gods and destined for greatness. Saying Israel used this would indicate that the account in Exodus was fiction, and that would be an unacceptable determination.

    Now, these guys might be respected scholars, but this is obviously not the way to reach an objective conclusion about the evidence: to say from the start that only one conclusion is acceptable.

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  2. ZILCH SAID:

    “Now, these guys might be respected scholars, but this is obviously not the way to reach an objective conclusion about the evidence: to say from the start that only one conclusion is acceptable.”

    Depends on what you mean. Both Currid and Ross come to Exod 2 with a certain view of Scripture. And that affects their interpretive options.

    But in commenting on Exod 2, they’re not attempting to lay out all their reasons for why they have a high view of Scripture. This is not the time and place to make their case for Scripture.

    This doesn’t mean, however, that they have no good reasons for their high view of Scripture. Hence, it’s not unreasonable for them to approach Exod 2 from a certain standpoint.

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  3. Fair enough, Steve. But if these scholars have already concluded that the Moses story is the Word of God, and any apparent or imputed relationship to the Sargon story is thus rendered academic, what's the point in treating it at all? For those who believe, they are simply preaching to the choir; and for those of us who do not (yet) believe, their objectivity is compromised.

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  4. Zilch,

    The answer to your latest question affects you just as much as it would the Christian. That is, most atheists (at least those over at DC exhibit this character) believe Christians are deluded and incapable of understanding the truth just as much as presuppositionalists would claim that atheists are deluded and incapable of understanding the truth. Yet both sides offer their reasons for their position nonetheless.

    For the Christian, at least, we have God's promise of working through means and not just decreeing the end sans means. God could supernaturally infuse knowledge into every person He wanted to, but instead He created humans with the ability to learn from other means (although I would point out that this ability to learn itself requires supernatural intervention, but that's a different subject for a different time). In any case, we believe that God uses our words and our defenses of Scripture (etc.) to bring His sheep back into the fold. We're blessed to be a part of God's work in that way when God didn't have to use us at all.

    I'm not sure what the atheist response would be, other than to deny that they really believe Christians are actually deluded at all. Even then, I see all the work that atheists do to convert people to atheism as so much blustering and vanity in the wind. What's the point?

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  5. What's the point? Uh, Peter, I must confess that I'm not sure I understand your question. Are you asking, that since (according to you) atheists are just blustering and vain, they even bother trying to convert Christians? Leaving aside your preconceptions about blustering and vanity (which all of us, believers and atheists as well) are prone to, I can only answer for myself, not for all atheists:

    First off, I don't really have a dog in this fight. It doesn't really matter to me whether someone is a Christian, a Muslim, or whatever, or an atheist: what is most important is how they behave. If they behave nicely, then I don't get any brownie points from Darwin or the Devil for converting them.

    But I do enjoy discussing these things, and I am concerned about the adverse effects of religion on culture: fundamentalist Islam in the East and suicide bombers, fundamental Christianity in the West and global-warming denial and the restriction of civil liberties. While I realize that there are all sorts of believers who are working to make the world a better place, there are also those who are doing the opposite, in the name of religion. That's why I bother.

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  6. Zilch said:
    ---
    What's the point? Uh, Peter, I must confess that I'm not sure I understand your question. Are you asking, that since (according to you) atheists are just blustering and vain, they even bother trying to convert Christians?
    ---

    No. I'm asking why, given the assumptions of atheism, atheists would bother wasting time to convert anyone to atheism. Frankly, I wonder why atheists don't just hold mass suicides....

    Anyway, I'll spell it out a bit more for you (and please note that I'm not being sarcastic at all and would love to hear your actual response).

    In atheism, we are nothing more or less than a particular assortment of matter. There's nothing "special" or "unique" about this, except that this assortment of matter is self-aware. But this random assortment of matter came from nothing and it will eventually return to the nothingness from whence it came, and in the meantime you have this life.

    This life, of course, consists of not much more than just a series of painful events. Even the joyful experiences merely seek to heighten to eventual pain. You get married? Good for you! Too bad your spouse is going to die and there's nothing you can do about it. You have children? Good for you! Too bad they're going to die too. And in the meantime, they'll hate you through their teen years too...

    In the end, life is nothing but pain. Purposeless pain. There's no goal, no reason for any of it. You just have episodes of pain...all of which could be avoided completely.

    All it would take is the Hemmingway Express. (You know, there goes ol' Hemmingway, always shooting his mouth off around women.) Yes, I couldn't resist the bad joke there. :-)

    Anyway, the logic is impeccable. In an atheist world, the one state where you are guaranteed to never experience any pain at all is death. Sure, you can't experience joy either, but as mentioned above joyful events merely work to cause extra pain later on (i.e., you wouldn't ever have to experience the pain of a spouse's death if you never experienced the joy of a marriage, etc.).

    But there's something else that we ought to consider here too. And that is the quality of what those painful or joyous experiences actually have too. That is, in the atheistic universe, what value is there for your personal joy? What value is it for your pain?

    These things are subjective. The value of joy or pain doesn't extend beyond you. You cannot determine whether what you find joyous or painful is of equivalent value to anyone else. These are completely subjective.

    And the subject will die. At which point, the value of those experiences ceases to exist. Thus, the value is nothing more than a momentary blip in history. You have joyful and painful experiences that don't matter to anyone else, and then you'll die and it won't matter to you either. There's no lasting effect at all.

    So consider this: someone is born and tortured every day of his life for 100 years before he dies. You wouldn't want that quality of life, sure; but he's dead. Someone else is born and gets everything he wants for 100 years before he dies. You would want that quality of life, sure; but he's dead. Both are in the same state: nothingness. Neither the pain nor the joy that these individuals felt matters at all once they are dead. Their quality of life doesn't matter either. They end up in the same place regardless.

    Suppose now that the one who got everything he wanted took pity on the one who was tortured and decided to give half of the things he enjoyed to the torture victim, and to endure half of the tortue himself. Both have identical quality of life now. But when they're dead, they're in the same place they would have been regardless of how their life went.

    So I ask: what's the point? What's the point in alleviating someone's pain when it doesn't affect the ultimate destination? What's the point of perpetuating an ILLUSION that your life matters, when it is impossible for it to have any actual meaning? (Even if you claim to assign meaning to it by your own will, the meaning you assign to it is merely subjective meaning that is as meaningless as everything else you do, since you will die and then it'll be gone anyway.)

    It is THIS concept that I mean when I ask, as an atheist, "What's the point in converting anyone to atheism?"

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  7. So Avalos is wrong again. What's new?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Zilch claims,

    "And as someone trained in the scientific method,"

    I doubt you even know what that means.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Peter,

    "Frankly, I wonder why atheists don't just hold mass suicides...."

    If atheism is true, that's perfectly morally permissible for them to do.

    ReplyDelete
  10. ZILCH SAID:

    “Fair enough, Steve. But if these scholars have already concluded that the Moses story is the Word of God, and any apparent or imputed relationship to the Sargon story is thus rendered academic, what's the point in treating it at all?”

    For one thing, a conservative Bible scholar often assumes the default role of a Christian apologist. He’s not a full-time apologist like William Lane Craig, but objections to Christianity often take the form of objections to Scripture, and since that’s his own field of expertise, when he writes a commentary on some book of the Bible, and he comes to a passage which unbelievers cite to challenge the inerrancy of Scripture, he assumes responsibility for addressing that challenge.

    Often, too, this isn’t just for the benefit of the reader. Since this lies within his own area of specialization, he’s had to work through these issues in the course of his intellectual development.

    “For those who believe, they are simply preaching to the choir; and for those of us who do not (yet) believe, their objectivity is compromised.”

    Depends on what you mean by “objectivity.” If by “objectivity” you mean that everything we believe should be open to question, then no one is or ever could be objective. Global scepticism is self-refuting.

    We all have to take some truths as the yardstick by which we measure other truth-claims. Everything can’t be doubtful, for we doubt some things because they conflict with other things we believe in.

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  11. Charles said:
    ---
    "Frankly, I wonder why atheists don't just hold mass suicides...."

    If atheism is true, that's perfectly morally permissible for them to do.
    ---

    Yes, but that's not the point I was getting at. In my view, it's not only morally permissible but it's the logical best practice under atheism. I.e., it is illogical to cling to life given this world is what our life entails. Thus, my argument doesn't even get into the morality of the decision yet; it's simply the level of what is the most logical action for a rational being to make in a world devoid of God.

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  12. Hi again, everyone. Peter, you say:

    I'm asking why, given the assumptions of atheism, atheists would bother wasting time to convert anyone to atheism.

    I told you: I don't really aim to convert anyone. I just like arguing.

    Frankly, I wonder why atheists don't just hold mass suicides....

    Hmmm... good question... why don't they? Maybe you should think about why they don't. And I'm not being sarcastic either: I would love to hear your response.

    You describe what life is like for the atheist, including lots of pain:

    In the end, life is nothing but pain. Purposeless pain. There's no goal, no reason for any of it. You just have episodes of pain...all of which could be avoided completely.

    And no meaning:

    What's the point of perpetuating an ILLUSION that your life matters, when it is impossible for it to have any actual meaning?

    You add later:

    In my view, it's [committing suicide] not only morally permissible but it's the logical best practice under atheism.

    And a lot more in that vein. Geez Louise, Peter- all I can say is, you must know some pretty depressed people. I certainly don't feel that way, and I don't know anyone who does, atheist or believer. If that's what you think atheism is like, then I understand why you are a believer. But it's not, and I ask you: why do you suppose we don't all commit suicide?

    Charles W: pray tell- do you know anything about my scientific training? I thought not. If you have criticisms of what I have said here, I'm all ears.

    Steve: okay, I get you. But I still think that a fair analysis of the likelihood that, say, the Moses story is related to the Sargon story is likely to be compromised if someone takes Allen Ross' view that this is a priori unacceptable because it renders Exodus fiction. Of course, an atheistic scholar might have his or her own ax to grind as well, and a believer could conceivably set aside belief to view the issue fairly.

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  13. Zilch,

    Well, you didn't really answer my question. And the logical position of atheism has nothing to do with depression, but rather logical consistency (which provides my first answer as to why atheists don't commit mass suicide: they're inconsistent).

    You can be the happiest deluded person on Earth, but that doesn't make your delusion real. Indeed, isn't that what most of the folks over at DC believe? Christians are deluded? They think they're happy because they believe in God, but when they die that illusion will be shattered? Is that not accurate?

    Because if it is, the atheist has to deal with his illusion just as much as he contends the Christian must.

    Anyway, I will answer your question as to why I do not think atheists commit mass suicide. A) They're logically inconsistent; B) there's no such thing as a real atheist.

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  14. Peter, I did answer your question, at least as it applied to me: I don't try to convert people to atheism. Other atheists do try to convert people to atheism- you can ask them why they do it.

    You say:

    Anyway, I will answer your question as to why I do not think atheists commit mass suicide. A) They're logically inconsistent; B) there's no such thing as a real atheist.

    Hmmm- these sound familiar. But okay, I'll bite: how is it logically inconsistent for me to not commit suicide? And what could a "real atheist" be, and what are the rest of us- fake atheists, agnostics, or just deluded God-deniers?

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  15. Zilch said:
    ---
    Peter, I did answer your question, at least as it applied to me: I don't try to convert people to atheism.
    ---

    But this is inconsistent with your previous statements (as well as your continuing this conversation--not that I mind you being inconsistent, of course). For instance, you said: "But I do enjoy discussing these things, and I am concerned about the adverse effects of religion on culture: fundamentalist Islam in the East and suicide bombers, fundamental Christianity in the West and global-warming denial and the restriction of civil liberties."

    This implies that you actually do see "adverse effects of religion" in the various manners you described. It also says you gain enjoyment from the discussion, etc.

    All of which I dealt with above. Namely: Why should it matter if you gain pleasure since your end result is identical whether you're tortured for 100 years or gain pleasure for 100 years? Implied is also the point: it doesn't matter what culture does because the end result of all people is death anyway. Thus, there's no such thing as "adverse" cultural effects. It would only be adverse if death was NOT the final outcome and suddenly it BECAME the final outcome. But at most all that you can claim is that religion causes fluctuations in how people will ultimately meet their fate; and you are in no position to decree whether these fluctuation actually are "adverse" or not. That is only your subjective opinion, nothing more. And it dies with you.

    Zilch said:
    ---
    how is it logically inconsistent for me to not commit suicide?
    ---

    It is logically inconsistent with your worldview to not commit suicide. Thankfully, if you steal from the Christian worldview, you will not commit suicide.

    To help you see this, it's perhaps easier to reverse the question: What is the reason you have for living?

    You cannot find an external reason in atheism. And any internal reason still dies with you. It can only, at most, delay the inevitable.

    Naturally, you could counter: "What would by my reason to die then? Would they not be just as meaningless as any reason to live?"

    Indeed, in atheism, to live or to die are both meaningless. The difference is that death is inevitable and cannot be escaped. So, too, is pain and suffering. You will grow old and you will lose your health. People you love will die. You will have increased aches and pains. There is no escaping it. This MUST happen.

    Therefore, it provides you an impetus to avoid pain by seeking death (is this not the claim of the Euthenasia crowd?) that you cannot have for choosing life. People will NOT progressively better themselves in life. They will NOT live forever. They will NOT become healthier as they age. There is only decay.

    This provides a one-way street, a bias toward death that life cannot have. Which then begs the very question you asked:

    ---
    why do you suppose we don't all commit suicide?
    ---

    There is no reason not to kill oneself in atheism, and there is every reason to escape a life of pain instead. So why not?

    Again:

    1) Atheists are inconsistent. They do not fully embrace the implications of their atheism because they consistently live their lives as if their lives matter.

    2) Atheists delude themselves in doing so, because they refuse to accept reality and instead pretend that their will is sufficient to create meaning out of nothing.

    3) Most atheists don't so much disbelieve in God as hate God. John Loftus is a perfect example of such an atheist, as he has said many times that if the Christian God exists he wouldn't worship Him. (Indeed, I would point out, that if the Christian God exists, Loftus would intentionally NOT believe in Him for that very reason.) This is not so much an overt reasoning, but you can find it when you press most atheists. Perhaps you are the exception to the rule...but examine the DC archives and see how often they've written posts along the line of "If this is who God is, I don't WANT to worship Him" and then consider that maybe that's exactly what is occuring.

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  16. Correction. I said:
    ---
    Atheists are inconsistent. They do not fully embrace the implications of their atheism because they consistently live their lives as if their lives matter.
    ---

    I meant:
    ---
    Atheists are inconsistent. They do not fully embrace the implications of their atheism because they inconsistently live their lives as if their lives matter.
    ---

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  17. Peter- Perhaps you see my wanting to discuss religion as being inconsistent with my claim that I don't want to convert anyone to atheism, but I don't see the inconsistency. I am interested in peaceful coexistence on our planet; and since it looks like neither religion nor atheism is going away any time in the near future, I do what I can to find common ground. This includes bringing my satanic, er, I mean secular humanistic viewpoint to the table, as a small contribution towards making the world a better place for my children. After all, people of all beliefs are capable of doing great good or great evil.

    What you seem to be saying- and this seems to be a common position among Christians- is that my life as an atheist is meaningless because it only lasts a certain amount of time, and then I die. Is this a fair appraisal? I see two problems with this:

    One, you are assuming the truth of your position in positing how my position must be for me. An atheist who somehow believed that an afterlife existed, but that he was missing out because of his atheism, might feel this way; but since most atheists don't believe in an afterlife, this is not how we look at it. This time on Earth is the time we have, for better or for worse: the fact that believers are looking forward to more doesn't make us feel that what we have is meaningless in comparison, because we don't believe there is anything more.

    Two: while it's true that some atheists find the shortness of our lives grounds for declaring that everything is meaningless (J.P. Sartre comes to mind), most of us don't. In fact, for me and many others, it is the awareness that we are only here briefly that makes every day precious and full of meaning. Since we don't believe in a God who is the absolute source of meaning, we must find our own meanings. In fact, the idea held by many fundamentalists of several religions, that our earthly sojourn is meaningless in comparison to the afterlife, or only meaningful insofar as it is a test that must be passed, is a great source of danger to the planet. I'm sure you can think of examples yourself: one that struck me that I found over at RaptureReady was a woman who said that she cheerfully dumped weed-killer down the drain, because Jesus was coming soon anyway. That's one of the reasons I think it's important to talk.

    As far as atheists' "stealing" ideals from Christianity to help prop up our inconsistent, meaningless lives, I would rather say we "borrow" the ideals: it's not like we run off with them without giving them back. In fact, the borrowing goes in all directions, and not just from Christianity: I'm sure you're aware that the Golden Rule, for instance, predates Christianity, and has sprung up independently over and over through history. Some ideas are simply good ideas, no matter where they come from.

    cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

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  18. Peter, or Calvin: I tried to leave a comment at your link to "Zilch- the final score of atheism", but I got the message "you must be logged in to post a comment". I don't see any place to log in- how do I do it?

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  19. Peter- I finally figured it out, and posted my reply here.

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