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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Argument from Transcultural Plausibility (ATP): or, "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love John Loftus' Favorite Argument
Perhaps John Loftus will be famous some day, like the ancient polemicist Celsus, for formulating a challenge that led to a interesting argument for the Christian faith. John calls his challenge the "Outsider Test for Faith. (OTF)" Perhaps history will know it as the Argument from Transcultural Plausibility (ATP).

The idea is not, of course, original with John. He asks, if his argument is no good, as some people say, why do critics like Victor Reppert and myself keep bringing it up?

Speaking just for myself, I find the idea of looking at Christianity from the viewpoint of other traditions fascinating. I lived many years in different Asian countries, and have been studying world religions and the history of missions for decades. I'm fascinated by how Christianity originated in a highly parochial and defensive Jewish culture, then found a way to transcend Jewish culture and become the dominant faith of the Greco-Roman, then other worlds.

As someone else points out, G. K. Chesterton also asks us to look at Christianity from the outside, in a great book called The Everlasting Man. Eleven years ago, I wrote as follows, in a book called Jesus and the Religions of Man, meant as an updating of Chesterton's classic:

"What should a Christian say to an idealist setting out on a journey? Seek the good in every spiritual tradition and cherish it; but don't be naive. Allow yourself to become desperate enough to be heretical, and even desperate enough to be orthodox. Give credit where credit is due, bu talso blame where blame is due. Take ideals seriously enough to live by, even die for. But be careful to whom you open your heart. Follow each star to the place where it leads. Then come and look again in a town called Bethlehem."

I don't want to take anything away from John: I appreciate him bringing the subject up, and in an interesting way. But that's the Outsider Test for Faith in a nutshell.

I explained some problems I have with the way John formulates OTF, as an argument against Christianity, in an earlier post.

In my last post, though, I did a bit what might have seemed a bit of an about-face, accepting John's conclusion that we should look at our own faith (whatever that is) from an outside perspective, at least for the sake of the argument. I then discussed the various difficulties involved in transmitting faith from one culture to another, and made a few modifications to OTF. I call the modified version the "Argument from Transcultural Plausibility" (ATP).

ATP takes into account the real-world challenges of convincing people in foreign cultures, speaking different languages, and with defense mechanisms against foreigners as subtle as the Great Wall of China, to swap their deepest beliefs for a "foreign religion." I argued that Christianity has actually done remarkably well, considering all the challenges. If there's anything to ATP, it might be seen as an argument FOR the Christian faith, and, possibly, against secular humanism.

But is there anything to ATP? Or is it based simply on the logical fallacy of Ad Populum? John suggests I am making some such mistake:

"David Marshall's latest critique of the OTF confuses the success of a particular religion with passing the OTF, which, if correct, would make contradictory religions true by virtue of being successful."

In other words, I am supposedly saying that Christianity must be true, because it is so popular. In that case, what about Islam or Marxism, which also caught on in many diverse cultures?

Can we reasonably deduce anything about the truth of Christianity from the fact that people in thousands of different cultures have come to believe in it, even at great risk or cost, or at the price of their own lives? Don't people often die for lies?

One does not want to be caught in public committing logical fallacies. But I do see two potentially viable arguments for Christianity based on the ATP:

(1) The first argument is based on a fulfilled prophecy.

One of the most dramatic and significant stories in the OT is the story of Abraham taking his son Isaac to a hill in the region of Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him. Richard Dawkins sees in this story "child abuse, bullying in two asymmetrical power relationships, and the first recorded use of the Nuremberg defense: 'I was only following orders.'" Jews read in it as the story of how human sacrifice, which had been common around the world, began to end. God was saying, in effect, "This, I don't need." Christians see the lamb who substituted for Isaac as a figure of Jesus, who would ultimately die (perhaps on this very same hill) for sinful humanity.

But notice how the story ends. After the angel appears and the lad is dramatically spared, God promises Abraham:

"I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens . . . And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you obeyed my voice."

This is quite a promise to make a Bedoin herder who lived in a tent in the wilderness 3500 years ago! Of what Pharoah of Egypt can we say all nations of the world have been blessed because of him? Can we say it of Alexander the Great?

Many mighty empires have disappeared without a genetic trace since this promise. But the Jewish people have not. And no one can deny they have had an often positive impact on the world -- for instance, some 30% of Nobel Prize winners have been Jewish.

Jesus was the most famous "seed" of Abraham. The universal spread of his teachings, and their impact, marks a stupendous fulfillment of this ancient promise.

Admittedly, Islam also claims in some sense to be a religion that arose from "Abraham's seed." (Though don't tell anyone in the Muslim world I said this, but I tend to see Mohammed as more of a bad seed.)

(2) As philosopher John Hick points out, people reasonably see a claim as more plausible if "great figures in the past" came up with something similiar. At any rate, he notes, “it is encouraging to find that one’s hard-won view of things was also the view seen by other and greater minds in earlier ages."

Aristotle agreed. He distinguished between two kinds of valid knowledge: Science, (which meant, broadly, what we know based on intentional empirical study) and Wisdom. As a source for the latter, Aristotle encourages us to "attend to the undemonstrated dicta and opinions of the skilful, the old, and the wise."

We do this every day, in classrooms, on the Internet, in conversations with friends. "Implicit faith," said Dr. Johnson, is the source of most of what we know.

An argument might be made that the sum total of wise men and women who tested Christianity from the perspective of different cultures, and found it passed, or that parts of it they knew best passed, makes it more reasonable to believe in Jesus Christ. There are some "Christians" who embarrass us. But clearly, the Christian faith is rendered more credible by winning the fervent allegiance of the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, Kepler, Solzhenitsyn, and Pascal.

But some converts impress me even more. Those are the men and women who fervently love great non-Christian civilizations and cultures. They know it as well, study it with passion, and interpret it with genius. They then take the OTF, and determine that not only does Christianity pass, but that the Gospel renews the wellspring of their civilization.

In the Greco-Roman world, I think of Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Augustine, in particular. There may be others, but these are the "skillful, the old, and the wise" I know, whose arguments for the Christian faith still impress me.

There are some of the same quality in India. One of the great reformers of India, Ram Mohan Roy, a father of modern India, wrote a pamphlet exerting some of Jesus' teachings, under the title, "The Principles of Jesus, the Guide to Peace and Happiness."

How does the Gospel look to "outsiders" like Roy, Keshab Chandra Sen, Krishna Banerja, and (yes) Gandhi? Obviously most Indians did not convert. It would have been difficult for them to do so, especially while India was occupied by often ravenous English imperialists! But the Gospel deeply affected India.

My own field is China. Perhaps the three most revered leaders in all China's long history are Emperor Tai Zong who helped found the great Tang Dynasty about 618 AD, the wise and noble Emperor Kang Xi who set the Qing Dynasty on its foundations in the late 16th Century, and Sun Yat-sen, who overthrew the Qing Dynasty and began the Republican era.

Remarkably, these three "wise, old, skilful" Chinese leaders interacted with three great branches of Christianity: Nestorian (eastern), Catholic (Jesuit) and Protestant.

Tai Zong read some of the works of Nestorians who arrived in China in 635 AD, and wrote a "blurb" for the Nestorian stele later found outside of Xian. He seemed to like what he understood of it (judging by textual products of that period, the translation was probably less than stellar). He also sponsored the church financially.

Kang Xi was educated, in part, by Jesuit priests. He seemed to believe in God, and liked and respected the Jesuit missionaries. In his early years he was a big help to Christians. (And they were a help to him!) Unfortunately, due to the bossy stupidity of some Catholic missionaries, and a foolish pope, Kang Xi came to feel threatened by these foreigners, and was forced to outlaw Christian evangelism -- though he did not much enforce the law. It was not the Gospel that pushed him away (though he he was not a convert), it was European arrogance (along with Chinese pride) that kept the Gospel at a distance.

Sun Yat-sen, like many 19th Century Asian reformers, was himself a Christian. Despite all the cultural barriers, despite the signs that read "dogs and Chinamen keep out," despite the saying, "One more Christian, one less Chinese," the father of modern China took, and passed, the ATP.

Such great lovers of Chinese civilization as Lin Yutang, John Wu, and many thinkers behind the Tiananmen protests of 1989, ultimately turned to Jesus not as a repudiation of their cultural heritage, but as a fulfillment of it.

If God intended to bless the world through Abraham's seed, as prophesied, one would expect the life of Christ to make a noticable impact on the world. And if one wants to get "outside one's own culturally-influenced head" and see if the Christian faith remains plausible, the thought experiment John suggests (and G. K. Chesterton before him) may be a great way to do so. I think, when both questions are considered fairly, Christianity passes ATP, and this may indeed give us two more legitimate reasons to believe it is true.

31 comments:

B.R. said...

At this point, I'm not even sure why I bother, but I just can't stop myself. Once again, as always, you use nothing real or substantial, just rhetoric, to to come to the inevitable conclusion that there's "legitimate reasons" to believe in Christianity.

Your entire post basically boils down to, "Xianty has had massive success in breaking through cultural barriers in almost every corner of the world for two millenia, and has bee accepted by many eminent people like Sun Yat-Sen, so it passes the OTF and it's reasonable to assume it is true."

Eh, how about "NO".

First off, it's ironic that you bring up Asia in your examples, when one considers that Xianty has been largely dismissed there as mindless dogma by the vast majority; today, in both China and Japan, Christians make up about 5% of the population, give or take.

Secondly, that many intelligent and respected people have embraced Christianity says nothing about ti's truth; all those Christians like Pascal were Christians because they were raised by Xians in a Xian culture that had been dominated by Xian values for centuries(which oddly enough, would not have happened if the Xians had not exterminated countless men, women, and chil--oh, I meant, "heretics, pagans, witches, and idolaters").

Just because your cult is the most wide-spread religion in the world doesn't give us ANY reason to believe it's true, or even plausible. And if it weren't for A, the use of slanderous "blood libel" type propaganda against other religions, and B, the use of violence and persecution(even mass murder) to crush rival beliefs, Christianity would've remained a largely Middle Eastern/Mediterranean religion.
Just look at South/Central America; there was no OTF or "ATP" there; just better-armed and armored Christians butchering the natives("heathens", that is) for the glory of Christ.
And that area now makes a very large chunk of Xianty's conquest.

B.R. said...

Anyway, the whole point is that your entire post, down to the last sentence, comes down to Ad Populem fallacy and Appeal to Authority; you'll have to do much, much better than that, I'm afraid.

Rhetoric has nothing on reality.

B.R. said...

I forgot to mention this earlier. Even if your fallacies were valid, how do it explain the fact that Christianity is in a decline and is rapidly losing converts to atheism, agnosticism, Islam, and in the U.S., Buddhism? And why is it that Xianty thrives in areas rampant with ignorance, superstition, and a generally uneducated population, such as Africa and Latin America?

David B Marshall said...

I made two main arguments in my post; you address neither of them. Neither is in fact an "ad populum" argument.

Pascal was not a Christian because Christians "exterminated countless men, women and children." The church in Gaul first appears in the historical record in 177 AD, when Marcus Aurelius put 47 Christians to death in Lyon. By the time Christianity was legalized, the faith was spread through towns around Gaul.

So I don't know what you're talking about, when it comes to Pascal. France was, no doubt, protected from Muslim conquest by Christian or semi-Christian kings, and that no doubt involved some killing -- though mostly of Moorish troops. Pascal's hometown of Clermont was sacked by Vikings in the late 9th Century, but they weren't Christians. Are you thinking of the Cathars? The connection is remote, at best.

Anyway, I refuted (the word is not too strong, in this case) Richard Carrier's claim that Christianity "spread by the sword" in a historically-detailed post on the christthetao.com website.

As for your question about why Christianity is "in decline," it isn't. The percentage of Christians worldwide has held pretty steady, despite dramatically lower birth rates in most Christian countries. This is caused by rapid growth of Christianity in Africa and parts of Asia, including well-educated civilizations like Korea and China, and among the most-educated classes of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan.

I'm not quite sure why you post, either. If your goal is to vent, that's what John's blog is for. Here, a bit more is required.

B.R. said...

See, this is what I'm talking about. First off, I'm not referring to the legalization of Xianty, but the way it spread throughout Europe and supplanted the pagan beliefs there; did you actually read my comment? If it wasn't for the mass murder of pagans, Xianty would have had a very difficult time spreading through Europe. And you know it.

"I made two main arguments in my post; you address neither of them."

You wish.
Read the first paragraph of my first comment, David; I address your arguments. You came to the conclusion that since Christianity has been accepted by intelligent, educated people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, who took the OTF and embraced Xianty, that Christianity in general passes the OTF and is plausible. But his is faulty reasoning. For one thing, one part of the OTF is not just looking at one's beliefs as an outsider would, but also looking at the evidence and arguments for said beliefs as an outsider would; throwing away confirmation bias, in other words.
And your point on Pascal is absurd. He was raised in a Christan culture that had been dominated almost utterly by Christian ideas and values for centuries, which was the result of the wars waged against pagans and heretics by the Church; surely you know at least basic Church history, don't you?
As for your debate against Carrier, it seems to me that you glossed over the violent bits and focused mainly on the goody bits. Maybe I'll do a post on it. But it doesn't change the facts, my friend.

http://notachristian.org/christianatrocities.html

fact; were it not for the never-ending oppression of non-Christians, Xianty would not have become the dominant religion of Europe. At one point in the debate, you noted that the Greeks and Romans also had witch-hunts and sometimes persecuted others; but what you so conviently forgot to mention was that while some Roman emperors dogmatically pursued Xians and killed thousands of them, others openly winked at the anti-Xian laws and allowed Christians to preach and practice their religion. Roman pagan persecution was not constant; once Xians came into power, the persecution of their enemies became constant and did not let up for over a thousand years.

In the last ten years, over thirty thousand Anglicans in Australia converted to Buddhism. And millions have in the U.S. have become either agnostics of outright atheists. Not to mention the fact that Western Europe is almost completely secular at this point. Islam is currently growing faster than Xianty.

B.R. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David B Marshall said...

BR: You're proving you don't know what you're talking about with each new post:

"Xianty has been largely dismissed there as mindless dogma by the vast majority; today, in both China and Japan, Christians make up about 5% of the population, give or take."

This is false for several reasons. If you'd read the last post, first of all, you'd know that "fail to convert" in no way shows that people "dismiss Christianity," still less as "mindless dogma." There are all kinds of barriers that prevent transmission of religious belief, ESPECIALLY when it comes to East Asia. In fact, most Chinese probably don't even know what Christianity teaches, yet, still less why some people believe it.

Second, you over-estimate the number of Christians in Japan by at least five times. This shows you don't know what you're talking about.

Third, no, I don't know that Christianity would have "had a very hard time" spreading in Europe apart from the "mass murder of pagans." For the most part -- with a few exceptions, involving Charlemagne, for example -- Christianity spread peacefully in Europe. Read Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity, which is about this period precisely.

Anyway, as I pointed out, Christianity spread in France BEFORE it gained political power.

No, what you attack isn't my argument. I'm not even talking about the "OTF." You seem to be repeating old talking points, without even noticing the posts you're supposedly responding to. The OP makes two very specific major arguments: one you completely ignore, the other you misrepresent.

I'm not surprised to hear that some nominal Christians in Australia have become Buddhists: two of my colleges in Japan were Australian Buddhists. One had a poster of Chez Guevarra on his wall, a momento of the last intellectual fad that had swept through.

Finally, as I indicated before, please save the invective and fowl language for some other site; it's not welcome here.

B.R. said...

Maybe, maybe not; but since it's not like they can't easily research it and find out what it does teach, it still stands to reason that they reject. If we were talking about China a few decades ago, when Xianty was outlawed, you would have a point. But since China has loosened up on it's anti-religion stance, and has one of the highest standards of education in the world, your religion has failed the OTF for a lot of them.

Ooh, I got my stats mixed up(since it's been a long time since I saw them); so therefore, I have no idea what I'm talking about. *Sure*. ;)

I'll look into it, if and when I have time to read some more Christian propaganda.
"for the most part--with *few* exceptions, involving Charlemagne, for example--Christianity spread peacefully."
Read the link I posted. And by the way, when the Xian authorities were not openly imprisoning and murdering pagans, they were still suppressing and oppressing their religions with Blood Libel and other lies/propaganda.

"I'm not surprised to hear that some nominal Christians in Australia have become Buddhists..."

No True Scotsman Fallacy; why am I not surprised? And I suppose that, in your omniscient and infallible wisdom, you can prove that every single one of these people was a nominal Christian, or for that matter, even half or one quarter of them nominal Christians.

That "d**k-measuring" falls under the category of either "invective" or "foul language" is debatable; f**k, s#!t, or other obscene words would, and I have not used any of them.

B.R. said...

"No, what you attack isn't my argument. I'm not even talking about the "OTf"[despite admitting that your ATP argument is a modified version of the OTF]. You seem to be repeating old talking points, without even noticing the posts you're supposedly responding to[whatever, you say, David, whatever you say]. The OP makes two very specific major arguments: one you completely ignore, the other you misrepresent."

Okay, then in one paragraph or less, quote the point of your post that I am supposedly "ignoring", and then describe the point I'm supposedly "misrepresenting"; or am I just "venting" here?

cl said...

[Loftus] asks, if his argument is no good, as some people say, why do critics like Victor Reppert and myself keep bringing it up?

To me, it's the "little things" that sometimes say so much about Loftus. Of course, the clear implication seems to be that the attention given to one's arguments signifies acceptance of their forcefulness, yet, if that were the case, I should be extolled as a formidable opponent at DC. After all, the same group of hornets follows me around like stink on dung, to the point where John threatened to ban me today.

I argued that Christianity has actually done remarkably well, considering all the challenges. If there's anything to ATP, it might be seen as an argument FOR the Christian faith, and, possibly, against secular humanism.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. What other religion has fared the test this well? As you mentioned, secular humanism is the religion of the elite.

David Marshall's latest critique of the OTF confuses the success of a particular religion with passing the OTF, which, if correct, would make contradictory religions true by virtue of being successful. [Loftus]

In other words, I am supposedly saying that Christianity must be true, because it is so popular. [Marshall]


This is exactly the "freshman class error" I cautioned Brenda about here. What did you actually write? We find it here:

An argument might be made that the sum total of wise men and women who tested Christianity from the perspective of different cultures, and found it passed, or that parts of it they knew best passed, makes it more reasonable to believe in Jesus Christ.

In their Introduction to Logic, philosophy.lander.edu defines argumentum ad populum thus:

The fallacy of attempting to win popular assent to a conclusion by arousing the feeling and enthusiasms of the multitude. ... "Bandwagon": the fallacy of attempting to prove a conclusion on the grounds that all or most people think or believe it is true.

Yet, you are not using your observations to argue that because so many people have converted, ergo Christianity is true. Rather, you are using your observations to demonstrate that many Christians have passed the OTF with flying colors, and I happen to think you are correct. Arguing that Christianity is true because so many have converted and that many Christians have passed the OTF with flying colors are two entirely separate arguments. The former is fallacious. As for the latter, I see no indication that you make argumentum ad populum. Rather, I see inability on behalf of your interlocutors to properly frame your argument.

*******

On a side note, I appreciate your knowledge of Christian history in China. Are you familiar with Watchman Nee at all?

B.R. said...

"Anyway, as I pointed out, Christianity spread in France BEFORE it gained political power."

Yes, and it MAINTAINED that power through the use of Papal Inquisitions, Blood Libel, false/slanderous propaganda, and by having Church writers induct dozens of pagan deities into mythology as demons who were cast from Heaven; in essence, painting pagans as baby-eating demon-worshipers.

http://www.donaldtyson.com/plague.html

Peaceful? Yes(mostly). Honest? Honorable? Moral?
NO!

B.R. said...

"Second, you overestimate the number of Christians in Japan by at least five times."

Really? Then seeing as how Japan also has higher rates of education and has no governmental barriers against Xianty(unlike China, where Xians are still persecuted every once in a while), and has massive Western influence pervading it's society, then your religion didn't just fail the OTF; it bombed harder than a nuclear bomb.

cl said...

@ B.R.,

Anyway, the whole point is that your entire post, down to the last sentence, comes down to Ad Populem fallacy and Appeal to Authority; you'll have to do much, much better than that, I'm afraid.

This is wrong. I've shown why.

Rhetoric has nothing on reality.

Indeed. That's why I find the majority of what you posted in this thread unpersuasive. For example,

...when one considers that Xianty has been largely dismissed there as mindless dogma by the vast majority...

Rhetoric.

...all those Christians like Pascal were Christians because they were raised by Xians in a Xian culture that had been dominated by Xian values for centuries...

Rhetoric, and false, and a fallacy of sweeping generalization.

Just look at South/Central America; there was no OTF or "ATP" there; just better-armed and armored Christians butchering the natives("heathens", that is) for the glory of Christ.

Rhetoric, and another fallacy of sweeping generalization.

Even if your fallacies were valid, how do it explain the fact that Christianity is in a decline and is rapidly losing converts to atheism, agnosticism, Islam, and in the U.S., Buddhism?

Rhetoric, and cherrypicked, and apparently false. From the Status of Global Mission: "According to the report, there will be, by mid-2011, 2,306,609,000 Christians of all kinds in the world, representing 33 percent of world population -- a slight percentage rise from mid-2000 (32.7 percent), but a slight percentage drop since 1900 (34.5 percent). Of those 2.3 billion Christians, some 1.5 billion are regular church attenders, who worship in 5,171,000 congregations or "worship centers," up from 400,000 in 1900 and 3.5 million in 2000. ... Compared to the world's 2.3 billion Christians, there are 1.6 billion Muslims, 951 million Hindus, 468 million Buddhists, 458 million Chinese folk-religionists, and 137 million atheists, whose numbers have actually dropped over the past decade, despite the caterwauling of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Co. One cluster of comparative growth statistics is striking: As of mid-2011, there will be an average of 80,000 new Christians per day (of whom 31,000 will be Catholics) and 79,000 new Muslims per day, but 300 fewer atheists every 24 hours." [source]

I just provided three examples of your "arguments" that reach reduce to a combination of rhetoric, false claims, and fallacies--and that pulling from only two comments! Of course, you're certainly free to deny the findings of the report, and I fully expect you to do so. However, what you cannot do--well, at least, what you should not do--is spout a bunch of hot air with no evidence or sound argumentation whatsoever, and then have the audacity to don your rationalist's cap.

Calm down and try meeting David on a logical level, get your facts straight, and avoid fallacies. Then we might be able to take at least somewhat seriously.

David B Marshall said...

CL: Lots of good points. I imagine life would feel meaningless once John kicks one off his site: one might actually get some work done!

To add to your stats, it's also pertinent to note that while the percentage of Christians has remained pretty steady worldwide, that's while the population of Europe and America has plunged as a proportion of world population. (Also while secular ideologies have run rampant in Europe, and some regions of America.)

Given those two trends, the Christian faith seems in some ways more vital than ever -- though one should not be triumphalist or sanguine. Many of those "Christians" are, of course, quite nominal.

BR: If I had a bagpipe for every time a skeptic fallaciously threw the "No True Scotsman" fallacy at me, I'd open a music shop.

Not guilty. My reasoning is not, "No true Christian would convert to Buddhism, so those converts must all have been nominal." My reasoning is, "Most Anglicans are nominal everywhere, especially in white, commonwealth countries. Therefore those Anglicans in such countries who convert to Buddhism are probably nominal, too." Also yes, my friends were I think nominal Anglicans, and probably yes, people are more likely to become Buddhists if they aren't strongly committed Christians to begin with. But the first point is enough.

B.R. said...

Not really. Marshall's argument, at second glance, can't be classified as Ad Populem, but it is a diluted version of it; the contention of Xianty breaking through cultural barriers to become popular with *some* of the intellectual elite does not give us "legitimate reason(s) to assume it(Xianty) is true"; you have to establish the historicity of Xianty's claims first.

"Rhetoric".

Wrong. Obviously, you have not yet read my last three posts.

"Rhetoric, and false, and a fallacy of sweeping generalization."

Funny how Christians love to tell you you're wrong, you're ignoring/misrepresenting their claims, or you don't know what you're talking about, but rarely, if ever, explain how or why. If Pascal had been born in Saudi Arabia, why, he'd probably have been a Muslim, now wouldn't he?
Not exactly rocket science, cl.

"Rhetoric, and another fallacy of sweeping generalization."

You wish it was. Were it not for the Conquistadors, and the Catholic priests who enslaved the natives and brainwashed their descendants, Xianty would not have spread and conquered South/Central America. This is a widely known historical fact, and mindlessly denying it doesn't change it in the slightest.

Numbers from a Christan website with an agenda that does not give a source for said numbers, doesn't give independent corroboration for said numbers, and even says at the end that you probably won't find these statistics reported in the mainstream. Hmm...
I wonder why... ;)

"I just provided three examples of your "arguments" that reach[?] reduce to a combination of rhetoric, false claims, and fallacies--and that pulling from only *two* comments[yeah, and in hindsight, that wasn't very smart, now, was it?]! Of course, you're certainly free to to deny the finding of the report[since it has no evidence], and I fully expect you to do so[really? Why, cl! You're making me blush, lol!]. However, what you cannot do--well, at least, what you should not do--is spout a bunch of hot air with no evidence or sound argumentation whatsoever, and then have the audacity to don your rationalist's cap."

Like you've been doing throughout your entire response to me? nah, don't worry, I'll be careful. ;)

B.R. said...

But honestly, I'm not the one who's denying a historical fact that any junior-high student could relate to you, and I'm certainly not the one blowing hot air without any sound evidence or argumentation whatsoever. Because it takes more than, "you're making a fallacy of sweeping generalization here" to refute someone's point. Here's a tip; follow your won advice at the end; you need it more than I do.

@David Marshall;

"CL: Lots of good points."

That they were; a good laugh is better than no laugh.

Maybe; but the law of averages still applies; at least some of them were devout, but this was not my main point. Anyway, thanks for the conversation. I'll see you sometime tomorrow, maybe.
Til then, g'night.

B.R.

cl said...

B.R.,

Give it up. You've been shown where you are wrong. Although, I must hand it to you for finally backing down a little bit on your charge of ad populum. I'll take that as a tacit concession of error, or at least, imprecision.

As for your point about the Conquistadors, it was never in contention. That you spice your rhetoric with facts of history doesn't mean it's somehow not rhetoric, kapish?

...I'm certainly not the one blowing hot air without any sound evidence or argumentation whatsoever.

Yeah, you are. You blew hot air about the percentage of Christians in Japan, and you blew hot air when you hit us with your false claim about Christian conversions being on the downward spiral. By "blow hot air" I mean making claims without evidence or citations. In all reality, we can find "statistics" to support both our positions here. Point is, you provided zero evidence for either claim, and both are disputable, yet here you are acting like you've got the truth and we need to hear it.

Need I invoke more than two undeniable examples of you blowing hot air before you'll see the light?

David B Marshall said...

BR: I suggest you try a little harder to understand the arguments before you argue against them. You seem to be making some effort to do that, but more would be helpful.

As I said, Aristotle spoke of two ways of knowing things: "Science," meaning empirical evidence that we study for ourselves, and Wisdom, in other words, the authority of people who have experience in life, and have shown themselves astute and insightful. Neither Aristotle, nor John Loftus, nor David Marshall, nor (apparently) CI, is suggesting that the latter is the only appropriate way of judging the truth of a religion. But John assumes it is A legitimate argument, and (following Aristotle and John Hick) I agree. I also argue (in the last post) that any such argument must take into account the sociology and geography of conversion, which I try to do. I further argue that given that sociology and geography, given all the rivers and oceans and Great Walls it has crossed, no belief system has been ratified by the collective wisdom of humanity as well as Christianity. I've also pointed out that that success seems to fulfill what can be described as the defining prophesy in the OT.

You can disagree, if you like. You can argue against Aristotle, if you like. But you need to take the whole argument into account.

For instance, what you say about Japan overlooks important points in the last post. No, they don't kill converts in Japan, anymore. They did once -- lots of them. But even today, barriers remain. This is why Japanese who leave Japan often DO convert to Christianity. The only Japanese in whose conversion I played any role, told me beforehand, "I feel like I'm betraying my family, my culture, and my country." Those are some high barriers, and they cannot be ignored for the purpose of any such argument.

Would Pascal be a Muslim in Saudi Arabia? Of course -- or dead. He didn't have to write Pensees just because he was French, though. And Pascal is not a major part of this argument, rather is invoked to make a more general point before focusing on the ATP. In making that general point, I bring up numerous Indian and Chinese thinkers and reformers of similiar stature.

B.R. said...

Why would I give up now, When I'm having so much fun?

Then you should have explained that instead of trying to dismiss as a over-generalization; clarity is what makes a good argument.

"You blew hot air about the percentage of Christians in Japan..."

Funny how you still aren't reading my comments. As I've already said, it's a been a while since I say the stats for Japan, and I got them mixed up with China's, AND I admitted my mistake; so in what fantasy world does that constitute "blowing hot air"?

Who said they aren't? I have yet to see viable stats indicating that they aren't; a Gallup poll might convince me.

Actually, I'm just making arguments in a debate with D.M., before you butted in and started acting like *you* had the truth, and *I* needed to hear it; I haven't accused either of you of being ignorant, yet you've both done the same to me while ignoring my points. Get off your high horse; I'm not talking about truth, I'm disputing the conclusion David Marshall came to at the end of his post; try reading my posts.

"Need I invoke more than two undeniable examples of you blowing hot air before you'll see the light?"

Seeing as how you attempted that in your last response to me, right before I blew it out of the water(something I've also done is this response), by all means, you're welcome to continue cherry-picking my comments, ignore half of what I say, and try to derail this thread; it changes nothing.

cl said...

B.R.,

...so in what fantasy world does that constitute "blowing hot air"?

Did you provide LINKS, i.e., EVIDENCE, for either your claim about Japan or your claim about religious trends? Yes, or no? Please, answer honestly.

B.R. said...

And once again, that is NOT what I'm contending; for crying out loud, I've posted twelve comments on this page, and you're still not paying attention to my point

The fact that Xianty has crossed more cultural barriers than any other religion(so far) gives us interesting insights into it's appeal to a wide variety of peoples, but--and I cannot emphasize this enough--it does not give us legitimate reasons to assume that Xainty is true, which was the conclusion of your post.
And furthermore, your point on the prophecy was rhetoric.
Seeing as how we can't objectively know that Jesus was Abraham's seed, as the gospels, the only basis for this theory, are hearsay. And if I was Aztec, Mayan, a descent any of the Native American tribes, or a pagan, or a Christian who disagreed with Church dogma in the Middle Ages, I wouldn't call the spread and impact of Jesus' "teachings"(brought to you courtesy of church councils with political agendas) a "blessing".

As for Japan, you need to provide reliable statistics for this claim; I've never heard of it. Most of the Japanese are either atheists, or Shintoists, or Zen Buddhist; in fact, the Zen community in the U.S. was set up by Japanese immigrants. Many have become Xians in the U.S., due to the pervasive Xian influence here, but many more did and have not.

And that was not a major point in my argument, either; I'm just sick and tired of Xians parading Christian thinkers and scientists like Pascal around in some inane attempt to attribute some level of intellectual credence to their religion.

Anyway, hopefully I made my point clear and there will be no misunderstanding this time.

B.R. said...

*sigh*

For the final time, I got my stats mixed up on Japan. That is NOT blowing hot air, because I actually *over*-estimated the number of Xians in Japan.

Did I? No. And at this point, it's not even important to the thread, but thanks for pointing it out.

David B Marshall said...

BR: I think you make two good points here.

First, it is true that in making this argument, it is somewhat circular to take the historicity of Abraham for granted. For the purpose of this argument, it is better to focus on the story as a product of ancient Israel, and the improbability that the Jews (taken as the seed of Abraham) would survive as a recognizable people, and that among them would be some who would uniquely bless the whole world. This is less improbable than if we could demonstrate that God had indeed made this promise to Abraham himself, but still (I think) quite impressive.

Secondly there is the question of whether the Jewish people, and Jesus in particular, really have blessed all the world. One can understand this from the perspective of Christian theology -- Jesus blesses the world by dying for our sins, saving some from "every tribe, every nation," as Revelations puts it. That might not be fully convincing to non-Christians, but since the ability of the Gospel to attract "outsiders" is the issue, it must be considered the primary meaning of "blessing" here.

There are tribes that don't seem to have been blessed by Christianity in any tangible way, or have been much harmed by people calling themselves Christian -- like the Arawak in the Caribbean, who were wiped out by Columbus and his men, and other tribes of the New World and some in Africa.

I don't think Christianity inspired much of that, and diseases took the largest toll -- small pox epidemics were bound to take a huge toll whenever the continents were joined. But it is, admittedly, hard to argue from historical evidence that these tribes benefitted materially from the "seed of Abraham." One might argue that Christianity nurtured the rise of Europe and of science, which resulted in the Voyages of Discovery, which led to their demise.

Taken as a heuristic, though, "in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" is I think remarkably well fulfilled in the Jewish people, and especially the influence of Jesus, even in terms of worldly blessings. I've made this case in print from a few different perspectives.

But I may alter the argument a bit to take these useful objections into account.

B.R. said...

For your first two paragraphs, yes, we might take the contributions of the Jewish people as a blessing... but oddly, enough, there are many other peoples and cultures who have contributed great things to humanity.
The Greeks, for example, or the Chinese, or the Italians for inventing pasta.

"One might argue that Christianity nurtured the rise of Europe and of science..."

Sorry, but I find this to be mistaken. For one thing, had it not been for the documents and manuscripts left by the Greeks, Europe would have been a barbaric, feudal mud-hole pretty much forever. One thing that kind of annoys me is that Christians in general have this habit of giving their religion waaay too much credit for Western Civilization's greatness, but when it comes time to own up to the Church's habit of suppressing science and medicine for primitive reasons, causing untold deaths by easily preventable cause, or all those Papal Inquisitions(1)(2), they will all too often try to dismiss those out of hand.
Without the Greeks and the Romans, pagans, idolaters, and homosexuals, there would have been little or no "Civilization" in the West. That's not to say that philosophy and learning was not furthered by Christian scientists, doctors, monks, and philosophers, but that doesn't mean that their religion was responsible for their achievements any more than the Greeks' religions were responsible for their achievements.
Anyways, thanks for the discussion. It's been a blast.


(1)What Papal Inquisitions?
(2)Exactly. ;)

David B Marshall said...

The same argument wouldn't work for the Chinese. Israel was a dinky little country, surrounded by much larger countries, habitually getting swallowed. They had no technological advantages over their neighbors at the time. They are more comparable to the hundreds of other little ancient kingdoms around the world that disappeared without a trace -- except that they didn't.

The Zhou Dynasty, by contrast (same era), occupied a large central region along the Yellow River, with a base to the west in modern Shaanxi, that often proved strategically useful. They were much larger, and in some ways more technologically advanced, than most their neighbors, also they had the only writing system, inherited from the Shang. In some ways the Zhou poets were perspecacious, but nowhere nearly to the same degree.

A more realistic parallel would be to one of the smaller states in greater Zhou civilization at the time -- say, Yan. The seed of Yan is going to bless all nations of the world. Nah.

Aside from which, China hasn't blessed the rest of the world to anything like the same extent -- even if you credit them for gunpowder, well, that's been a mixed blessing, even to the Chinese.

No one is denying that Greek and Rome have also contributed. Probably of all the thousands of nations that have existed in human history, ancient Greece would have the strongest claim, along with ancient Israel, to fulfilling this prophecy.

The Church didn't "suppress science and medicine." That's a skeptical myth of a rather low order, and the opposite of the truth, as you ought to know. But I'm not going to try to set you right on that right now.

B.R. said...

The Chinese were responsible for navigation and the first computational devices. That's a blessing.

I wouldn't say that the Hebrews contributed as much as the Greeks. No one has.

Really? If they didn't suppress science, then why is it that astronomers and philosophers who openly disagreed with Church dogma had a funny habit of "spontaneously combusting"---with the aid of the Church? And if they didn't hold back medicine, why did they prohibit autopsies for centuries out of some inane concept of "respect for the dead", depriving physicians of knowledge that could have saved hundreds of thousands?

B.R. said...

And before you immediately respond with something about how the Hebrews contributed more to humanity, consider this;

A) Were it not for the Greeks, Western Civilization either wouldn't have existed or would have taken another couple thousand years to get off the ground.

B) The Hebrews did not contribute anything in the way of philosophy, architecture, music, medicine, technology, or warfare that had not already been pioneered by others. The contribution you speak of is based upon personal beliefs and is subjective. As I've pointed out, the spread and impact of Xianty's teachings are only a "blessing" to those who weren't massacred for it, or those who are predisposed towards considering them a blessing(those who believe in sad teachings, in other words).

Thanks for taking the time to respond, by the way.

B.R. said...

"Said", that is, not "sad" teachings.

David B Marshall said...

BR: "If they didn't suppress science, then why is it that astronomers and philosophers who openly disagreed with Church dogma had a funny habit of "spontaneously combusting"---with the aid of the Church? And if they didn't hold back medicine, why did they prohibit autopsies for centuries out of some inane concept of "respect for the dead", depriving physicians of knowledge that could have saved hundreds of thousands?"

Both are mostly myths, which goes to show how the Enlightenment holds back historical knowledge.

James Hannam spends quite a bit of time debunking the autopsy myth in The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution. Dr. Hannam studied physics at Oxford, and got his Phd in the history of science from Cambridge.

My friend Allan Chapman, eminent historian of science at Oxford, will also be writing on this general subject for a book I'm editing, due out early next year.

David B Marshall said...

I've written so much on the blessings of Christianity to ALL the world, including billions of non-Christians, in various books, that I think I'll just refer you to them. (Including Truth Behind the New Atheism, Jesus and the Religionsn of Man, and True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture.) This is also one of the main themes of another book that may come out next year. Not to toot my horn (you might also read Vishal Mangalwadi and a whole bunch of other good writers on this), but you're missing a really important side of history, unrecognized by most people who go through our education system, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Argument"Eleven years ago, I wrote as follows, in a book called Jesus and the Religions of Man, meant as an updating of Chesterton's classic:

"What should a Christian say to an idealist setting out on a journey? Seek the good in every spiritual tradition and cherish it; but don't be naive. Allow yourself to become desperate enough to be heretical, and even desperate enough to be orthodox. Give credit where credit is due, but also blame where blame is due. Take ideals seriously enough to live by, even die for. But be careful to whom you open your heart. Follow each star to the place where it leads. Then come and look again in a town called Bethlehem."

I don't want to take anything away from John: I appreciate him bringing the subject up, and in an interesting way. But that's the Outsider Test for Faith in a nutshell."


No it isn't. You almost got it with your warning not to be 'naive' and assigning blame where warranted but you were no closer to understanding OTF eleven years ago than you are now.
When you can look at your own conviction that your own 'god' was somehow leading adherents of other cultural/religious groups toward accepting your dogma-(and it is clearly dogma otherwise you would would not be trying to fit other belief systems to it)-through all those centuries just so you could give their descendents the opportunity to convert, and honestly consider whether you are equally (or perhaps even more?) 'naive' because of your own cultural imprinting then and only then can you claim to have begun to apply the OTF-(and I don't mean your pitiful, hackneyed remaking of it).

Would you actually accept a Hindu's claim that Christianity is just Krishna's round about way of preparing Europeans to accept Hinduism?