Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MJ: Maher's Muscle; Defending a Lost Cause

Steve already offered some comments on "MJ in SOCAL's" response to my review of Religulous which I posted at Maher's blog.

One first wonders why he's even trying to have a reasoned discussion with me. According to Maher, I'm suffering from a mental disorder. Would MJ try to have a reasoned discussion with Charlie Cheswick?

Or perhaps these guys?


So MJ's already helping us critique Maher.

Anyway, let's see what MJ has to say in defense of Maher:

Mr. Manata, I’ve read your movie review and was amused at your attempt to discredit Bill Maher’s intelligence. Last I checked, Cornell University doesn’t issue BA’s to the village idiot, which you slyly implied about him with your village atheist comment.
First off, "Village Atheist" is a technical term. One can both be intelligent and a Village Atheist.

Secondly, universities do give degrees to village atheists. Sam Harris is recognized by many to be a paradigm case of a village atheist, yet he has a degree from Stanford. And I'm sure we don't need to discuss Dawkins's degrees.

Third, how come these atheist types don't like it when the shoe's on the other foot? MJ just got done watching a movie where he laughed at how stupid Christians were for an hour and a half. Now all of a sudden they don't like it when we call them religulous? This might be news to them, but I consider atheism to be irrational. See, I did laugh in the movie. I didn't laugh with Maher, I laughed at Maher. What really makes it funny is how smug and arrogant he is when his objections are such that my third grader could answer. When he walks around mispronouncing books of the Bible while mocking so-called ignorant Christians. When he shows he doesn't even understand some of the essential basics of the belief he attacks. Maher was funny because Maher was funny.

Fourth, MJ helps us, again, discredit Maher. Perhaps if he were more critical of what he swallowed from the New Atheists, he'd catch mistakes like these. See, Maher tells us that religious adherents are stupid. That they suffer from a mental disorder. That they are out to lunch if they believe the things they profess. That they are, well, "Religulous." But on MJ's own terms, Maher makes another boneheaded move here! How so? Let's look at some theists:

Marilyn McCord Adams Oxford

Robert M. Adams Oxford

William Alston Syracuse

James Anderson (degree from) University of Edinburgh, RTS

Jennifer Ashworth University of Waterloo

Harriet E. Baber University of San Diego

Deane Baker University of Natal, South Africa

Michael Beaty Baylor University

W. David Beck Liberty University

Francis Beckwith Baylor

Michael Bergmann Purdue University

Andrei Buckareff University of Rochester

J. Budziszewski University of Texas at Austin

Calvin College Philosophy Faculty

David K. Clark Bethel

Stephen Clark University of Liverpool

Matthew Clarke University of Natal, South Africa

Paul Copan Palm Beach Atlantic University

Winfried Corduan Taylor University

Jan A. Cover Purdue University

William Lane Craig Biola University

Charles L. Creegan

Thomas Crisp Biola University

George Cronk Bergen Community College

Richard Davis Tyndale College

Stephen T. Davis Claremont McKenna College

Scott A. Davison Morehead State University

Keith DeRose Yale University

Reinaldo Elugardo University of Oklahoma

C. Stephen Evans Baylor

Linda L. Farmer Wright State University

Alfred J. Freddoso University of Notre Dame

R. Douglas Geivett Biola University

Harry J. Gensler John Carroll University

Jonathan Gold West Liberty State College

Douglas Groothuis Denver Seminary

Stuart C. Hackett Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Glenn A. Hartz Ohio State University

William Hasker Huntington College

Kenneth Einar Himma University of Washington

Peter Horban Simon Fraser University

John Hawthorne - Oxford

Hud Hudson Western Washington University

Jim Kanaris McGill University

Robert C. Koons University of Texas at Austin

Saul Kripke

Jeffrey Koperski Saginaw Valley State University

K.D. Kragen KaveDragen, Ink.

Peter Kreeft Boston College

Norman Kretzmann Cornell University

Steve Kumar NZ Apologetics Society

Jonathan Kvanvig Baylor

Robert A. Larmer University of New Brunswick

William F. Lawhead University of Mississippi

Brian Leftow Oxford

Mark Linville Atlanta Christian College

Scott MacDonald Cornell University

Alasdair MacIntyre Notre Dame [ more ]

Ronald McCamy Moorpark College

Hugh McCann Texas A&M

Timothy J. McGrew Western Michigan University

Pat Manfredi Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

William E. Mann University of Vermont

Gary R. Mar SUNY Stony Brook

Christopher Menzel Texas A&M

Trenton Merricks University of Virginia

Scott H. Moore Baylor University

J. P. Moreland Biola University

Wes Morriston University of Colorado, Boulder

Paul K. Moser Loyola University of Chicago

Michael Muth Westminster College

Mark Nelson University of Leeds

Joseph Novak University of Waterloo

Timothy O’Connor Indiana University

Ric Otte University of California at Santa Cruz

Alan Padgett Luther Seminary

Alvin Plantinga University of Notre Dame [ more ]

Louis P. Pojman University of Mississippi

Alexander Pruss Baylor

Hilary Putnam Harvard [more]

Del Ratzsh Calvin College

Michael C. Rea University of Notre Dame

Bruce Reichenbach Augsburg College

Victor Reppert

Nicholas Rescher University of Pittsburgh [ more ]

Greg Restall University of Melbourne

Phil Ruetz University of Rochester

Thomas Senor University of Arkansas

Daniel Howard-Snyder Western Washington University

Francis Howard-Snyder Western Washington University

James S. Spiegel Taylor University

Eleonore Stump Saint Louis University

Michael Sudduth San Francisco State University

Frederick Suppe University of Maryland

William Sweet St. Thomas University

Richard Swinburne University of Oxford

Thomas Talbott Willamette University

Charles Taliaferro St. Olaf College

Gregg ten Elshof Biola University

William Tolhurst Northern Illinois University

Dale Tuggy SUNY Fredonia

Bas van Fraasen Princeton

Peter van Inwagen University of Notre Dame

Daniel von Wachter Oriel College (Oxford)

William F. Vallicella

Donald Wacome Northwestern College

William Wainwright University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Bernard Walker Bethel University

C. Robert Wetzel Emmanuel School of Religion

Barry Whitney University of Windsor

Phillip Wiebe Trinity Western University

Edward Wierenga University of Rochester

Peter S. Williams

Greg Welty (degree from) Oxford, SWBTS

Nicholas Wolterstorff Yale

David Yandell Loyola University of Chicago

Keith Yandell University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dean Zimmerman Rutgers University

Should I keep going?

And my guys don't just have "BA'S", they have "Ph.D's".

"I can’t speak for Bill Maher, but I know I agree with most of his observations."
Wouldn't the fact that they are Bill Maher's "observations" mean that he agrees with them?

"I suppose it’s feasible the Wharton School accidently let me slide through their MBA program and that my intelligence should be eyed suspiciously, since I too have dared to question the legitimacy of all religious text."
I have no doubt that both you and Maher are "intelligent." I never claimed otherwise. But when it comes to speaking on religion, I'm sorry, he just sounds ... well, friggin religulous!

"For the record, I’ve read them all: The Torah, The Bible and the Quran, as well as many books on Eastern religions."
Good, then I assume you laughed right along with me at all of Maher’s blunders.

And, for the record, it's not a matter of simply "reading" the text, it's how you read it. But then I'm sure you knew that given your educational 'n all. Hermeneutics and exegesis matter, as I'm sure you know. So you'll understand why I'm never impressed when an unbeliever tells me, "I've read the Bible." And not merely because I rarely believe them. I mean, it's hard enough for Spirit-filled Christians to read through some portions of the Bible.

"And despite all my long thoughtful conversations with faithful and well educated Jews, Christians and Muslims, I’ve concluded that all religions do one thing: They require their believers to suspend logic and not question the contradictions or inconsistencies of their teachings."
Well, anyone can make assertions like that. I might as well say the same about nonbelievers. And I'm sure you can make sense of normative claims like "People shouldn't believe contradictions," right?

"And they’ll all have you believe the reward for your self-imposed ignorance (or “faith” as we like to call it) is some mystical eternal after life and the punishment for thinking outside the box is fire and damnation."
I'm sure you can document that the Bible teaches this ... emotive-laden words and question begging epithets included?

"I give credence to the possibility the seeds of these faiths may not have been planted as tools to manipulate their believers to do evil in God’s name, but history has shown that is exactly what their leaders have done; hijacked the faithful to fulfill their power hungry agendas."
I refute this oversimplified view of the causes of evils in my post, you may want to interact with it.

So, you can nitpick Bill’s approach and presentation, both of which I found to be hilarious, but his argument that there is no proof outside of a holy text or in peoples minds that God exists is solid.
Perhaps you can point me to where he argued that? The above theistic philosophers would disagree. And, by the way, are you saying that one is irrational if they don't believe something without proof? Do you believe that? Can you prove it? If you prove it, do you believe the proof? Then prove the proof. Ad infinitum... And, while we're at it, what is proof? How does one go about "proving" something in your worldview?

"You say the bible is based in history, and I do believe that to be true. But, have you ever read the American Indians version of how the white man came to rule the West? Not surprisingly, it’s very different than the white man’s version. The point being that just because someone wrote it down a long time ago does not automatically mean it’s the whole story or even the truth."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's all rather a waste of your time considering the fact that the segment of my post you're referring to wasn't meant to be an argument. It was meant to be a correction and an explanation. The paragraph should have made that clear.

"We know there are books that were omitted from the Bible because a council of men decided that if they were included they would be too divisive. They decided what story to tell, and they manipulated the text to tell that story and that story alone. They even went so far as to try and destroy those texts, so no evidence of their existence could be found."
Those are what's called bare naked assertions. Perhaps you can wrap your claims in some substance next time? For one so big on "proof," I, for one, would love to see the "proof" you have about the mental states of two-thousand year old men!

"So, since that’s all in recorded history, how does one believe beyond any reasonable doubt that the Bible is anything but the definitive word of the men who assembled it?"
I reject your view of the history. Uh oh, now you have to actually defend your take on the events. You think you're the first person to raise these objections?

"Oh, that’s right; they don’t teach that part of the church’s history in Sunday school, so most Christians don’t know about it."
No, actually, colleges and seminaries and Christian books address the very issue you're trying to raise. In fact, they go over it all in some detail. So it appears that you're the one who's getting spoon fed from only one side.


  1. "I give credence to the possibility the seeds of these faiths may not have been planted as tools to manipulate their believers to do evil in God’s name, but history has shown that is exactly what their leaders have done; hijacked the faithful to fulfill their power hungry agendas."

    If history has shown that Christianity has been "hijacked," then this requires MJ to have some idea of what Christianity actually is, and if it's embedded in religious texts, it requires that MJ exegete them, not merely quote them...but then we've never actually seen atheists do that. They delight in quoting, but they seldom if ever exegete. When we tell them to exegete, they suddenly start saying "It's all just (your) interpretation," but on that view, why should we accept the Village Atheists' interpretation over our own. If it's all just (anybody's) interpretation, so is everything else, so we're on the road to global skepticism already. Hmmm, one might call that position "irrational."

    "We know there are books that were omitted from the Bible because a council of men decided that if they were included they would be too divisive. They decided what story to tell, and they manipulated the text to tell that story and that story alone. They even went so far as to try and destroy those texts, so no evidence of their existence could be found."

    Yeah, which council decided not include which books? When did this council occur? Why did they "omit" these texts? And which texts did they try to destroy and why? Finally, anybody who actually argues that the AnteNicene Christians had that sort of power is simply ignorant of church history. Yes, they got rid of certain texts - because when the Romans came to persecute them, they handed them texts other than their own, because, in a nutshell, they knew the Romans wouldn't know the difference. On the other hand, if they were trying to hide what the heretics said, they did a mighty poor job, since we know what many of them said insofar as they were quoted.

    "I can’t speak for Bill Maher, but I know I agree with most of his observations."

    One wonders if that includes his statement that he is trying to engage in an honest study. If that was really true, why not interview somebody like Mike Horton, James Anderson, Alvin Plantinga, etc.? I'd go after the best and brightest, not some shmucks on the street. It says a lot about Maher that he won't do that. No, instead he has to misrepresent himself to these folks, make fun of them, and severely edit them to make them look ridiculous. Let's see Maher take on a panel, an actual panel of these individuals on his own show, and not in one of those "let's gang up on the Christians" sort of panels, or better yet, let's show Maher in an actual one on one interview with one of the folks in Manata's list - then we'll believe he's an honest person.

  2. MJ in SoCal wrote:

    "They even went so far as to try and destroy those texts, so no evidence of their existence could be found."

    Some Romans sometimes destroyed documents. Some Americans have sometimes destroyed documents. What does that prove? The fact that some Christians sometimes destroyed documents doesn't prove much about the canon, and the canonical documents aren't all that's relevant to the history of Christianity. We also have data from many other sources (archeological artifacts, the writings of post-Biblical Christians, the writings of non-Christians, etc.). MJ's claim about the destruction of documents is itself a conclusion about Christian history, so he believes that some conclusions about the history of Christianity are warranted. He needs to get much more specific and offer documentation.

  3. Not only that, but even if we grant the hypothesis that the Early Church did indeed decide which books to include and exclude from the Bible, isn't it the fact that these guys, as founders of a religion, would be the people best suited to say what belonged to it and what didn't? In other words, let us grant EVERYTHING to the atheist for the sake of argument and pretend that a bunch of guys got together in the Middle East and invented a religion. Aren't they the one's who can decide what belongs to it and what doesn't? Wouldn't this be the same thing as any other group of people defining who belongs and who does not belong to their group? I mean, the Boy Scouts have regulations. I can't just invent something and call myself a Boy Scout.

    So the objection that the Early Church edited the Scriptures is a pointless and irrelevent objection even if we grant the atheist everything.

  4. What's sad is that this type of "argument" is the same as what we see in this current election process. There really isn't much "thinking" through anything. It's just assert and claim your own position.


  5. Marilyn McCord Adams Oxford

    Paul, this professor is a theist, but she's also a heretic.

  6. OT: But about New Atheism

    "This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

    A serious case could be made for a deistic God."

    This is a massive backtrack by Dawkins.

  7. TUD,

    "Marilyn McCord Adams Oxford

    Paul, this professor is a theist, but she's also a heretic."

    Um, I know. More than just her, too. If you'll notice, I stuck with the more general terms "religious adherent" and "theist." My list wasn't supposed to be a "who's who" in Christian orthodoxy. It was simply a list indicating that "theists" have "degrees" too.

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