Sceptic Answers to Christian FAQs

Sword&Spirit hosts a very interesting list of FAQ’s which are designed to lead the reader into being convinced by their arguments (I have yet to meet a FAQ which does not do this).

However, most, if not all, of the questions are misleading and fallacious, and the answers don’t get any better.

So, with no permission whatsoever from Sword&Spirit, I will attempt to answer said Frequently Asked Questions (ALL 55 of them!) from a rational and sceptic perspective.

1.- I’ve heard that carbon-14 dating cannot really be trusted to give accurate dates.

It cannot be trusted anymore than a ruler cannot be trusted to give an accurate measurement of a line drawn on paper.

Carbon-14 dating relies on the natural decomposition of carbon-14 atoms in materials. This natural decomposition is completely spontaneous, but we know for sure that every ~5700 years, the level of carbon-14 in a sample will have dropped to half its original value.

When dealing with dating, carbon-14 is only really reliable for dates sooner than 50,000 years ago before readings start going awry due to background radiation. Any sooner than this, however, and carbon-14 is a reliable method of radiometric dating.

Every now and then in a carbon-14 calibration graph there are small plateaus (e.g. 10,000 – 11,000 years ago there is one) which may be read as a complete annulation of radiometric dating by a layperson, but this is thankfully not the case in reality.

In any case, there are multiple ways of making fairly accurate radiometric dating readings, especially on the age of the Earth, not limited to carbon-14.

2.- Is it possible that the moment of creation may be more recent because the mountains have not eroded away?

No.

3.- Why wor-

Just kidding, I am actually going to answer #2. It’s a hideous question. A foolish New-Earth Creationist will talk to you about rates of erosion being such that it would take the continents 16 million years to erode, therefore the time of Creation must be several thousands of years old because the continents are still here.

This is supremely unscientific because: It assumes the Earth is uniformly made out of the same stuff. It assumes a constant rate of erosion. It ignores plate tectonics completely. It ignores lava flow, magma, and a long etc. As Sword&Spirit correctly points out, “[…]the erosion argument for a Young Earth is bad […]” .

3.- Why worry about the scientific accuracy of the Bible when it is clear that science and religion never mix anyway?

Because some take the Bible as a literal and infallible account of whatever it documents. Science is religiously neutral. It deals with finding cause and effect, and by definition, the causes science finds are not supernatural. The question of the origin of the universe is not one with a supernatural answer, as so many scientific postulations, hypotheses, conjectures and demonstrable theories show.

When someone reads the story of Noah’s Flood and believes it actually occurred, then there is a clear advance on the terrain of geology, physics, chemistry, physiology, biology, ecology and astrophysics. Nobody takes the stories of Osiris and Thor as literal fact, even if they were fulfilled prophecies at one time for the people who believed in them.

4.- What I want is absolute proof for the existence of God. Why can’t any Christian give that to me?

Because there is none.

5.- I keep running into people who claim that Armageddon is just around the corner. But people having been saying that for decades. What do you think?

I have already made my own answer some time ago, but Sword&Spirit has actually quite a good answer:

We think we should relax.

Armageddon is a valley in Israel that the Bible predicts will be the site of a great battle involving the nations of the world. The climax of the battle will see the end of the age and the ushering in of a new era, with Jesus ruling as its King.

There are religious groups now – and have been since Jesus’ resurrection – which claim Armageddon is imminent. But what does the Bible say?

The Bible tells us several things will occur before the momentous battle. Here are just a few:

  • the gospel will be preached to all the people groups of the world.
  • all nations will be united under a ten-nation confederacy,
  • Israel will undergo complete disarmament,
  • there will be a world-wide dictator,
  • all the organized religions of the world will unite together as one great religion against the true Christian faith.

These are just several major and obvious events to look forward to before Armageddon.

Paul warns of narrow-minded zealots in II Thessalonians, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until these things first take place.”

6.- If God created us, who created God?

A theological answer will be shrouded in mystical language which basically says: He is infinite, or some variation thereof.

It is, however, far more elegant, scientifically sound and logical to assume the infinity of time, or the universe, or of the Mother Brane and not of a complex creator such as a God. Indeed, one of the biggest problems a theist will have in a story of Creation is the explanation for God. In their own rhetoric, “if something is irreducibly complex, there must be a designer”. Presumably, God, being in the capacity to design things of irreducible complexity, must be irreducibly complex himself. Don’t try and pursue this point of view, the ‘irreducibly complex’ line of Creationist thought is some of the most uninspired and brain draining rhetoric to have stepped out of organised religion.

Not as bad as the ‘eroding continents’ one though.

7.- How could Noah’s ark have possibly held all the species of life on the earth?

It didn’t. Noah’s ark is a story of bronze age mythology, not to be taken at face value. There is no way at all that Noah, even being real, could have pulled it off. There is simply no way.

Creationist rhetoric, again, goes mystical and talks about the Hebrew translation which actually meant that the ‘mammals’ or ‘the birds’ or both were taken aboard. Also, it refers to only flooding the ‘land’, not the ‘globe’. The strangeness of this argument is not as strange as a story of outright jealousy and genocide on behalf of God, who would rather wipe out humanity and start on a clean slate than make an effort.

And it also doesn’t say much for God’s family planning skills if he planned to rebuild the species of Earth from two common ancestors – can you say ‘inbreeding’?

8.- Why did Jesus speak in parables?

So that his followers in the future could interpret his words to their liking – may it be for War or Peace or pro-life or whatever.

At the Gospel of Reason, I hold that Jesus was a good guy with a good message. I honestly like to think there is historical evidence for his existence, and being a clear thinker, his message must have been modern, enlightened and good. It is in the Apostles that I imagine much of the blame of Jesus’ convoluted sayings can be placed, the people who would in the future need to draw upon a set of swirly sayings to justify everything.

9.- The Trinity just does not seem to make sense. How can one person be two persons and three persons all at the same time?

Theist rhetoric talks about multiple dimensions without really understanding them at all. Even if the ‘Trinity’ were in a multiple dimension, it does not explain how in out dimension it could be manifested as such.

The Trinity, really, is just a hark back to the times of good ol’ polytheism.

10.- Does God play favorites? Is God a Zionist because He has been supernaturally assisting the Jews?

Sword&Spirit attributes Israel’s stunning military victories in ’48 and ’73 to God, not to the air force pilots or the strategists or the generals, where one might foolishly try to place the credit.

God favours absolutely everyone according to absolutely everyone. Muslim warriors will tell you of the will of Allah that brought the twin towers down in 2001.

Claiming God as one’s own is not only probably blasphemous anyway, but is most likely the root cause of much of the world’s fights and sufferings. There is not a war in the world that cannot be attributed in some way or another to the favour of a deity.

This FAQ, ladies and gentlemen, is the core reason why religion is so pervasively dangerous. Indeed, Faith is dangerous because it is an effrontery to critical thinking, but the belief in God that favours you is far more dangerous because it is quite simply fundamentalism.

11.- If Christianity is uniquely true and clear and simple, why are there so many denominations?

Power struggles. Enough said.

12.- Paul and Stephen contradict one another on the length of the Egyptian sojourn. How do you explain that?

Matthew and Luke contradict each other in the number of generations Joseph, ‘father’ of Jesus, is down in the line of the House of David. This is important, because the Messiah was prophesised to be of the House of Solomon (Mary’s line) and David (Joseph’s line). In any case, however, one of the biggest mistakes of Christianity was to establish Jesus as being born of a virgin birth, since it renders the ancestry of Joseph completely irrelevant!

If you want to see the number of times the Bible contradicts itself, read the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible which points out somewhere near 5,000 contradictions, as well as documenting cases of open genocide, fratricide, parricide, infanticide and abuse of women, among other delightful things. It also has a ‘Good Points’ side, incidentally. It is truly a Skeptically Annotated Bible.

13.- Why does the Bible say that rabbits chew their cud, yet they don’t?

See above.

14.- How can you tell the difference between a miracle and a natural, but unusual event?

Every natural and unusual event is a miracle until science can find an answer, and it always does.

That there are still unanswered miracles or claims is not a testament to the inability of science to refute them, but a testament to the unavailability of evidence at the time.

Often, a miracle, or a prophetic vision of God or Jesus, is performed by solitary religious people who are susceptible to epileptic attacks.

In any case, the default position for an unexplained event is not “ah, hence it is a miracle!”. Otherwise, everything from whispering winds to UFOs and chain link fences making optical illusions would be ‘miracles’. Indeed, the finality of a proclamation of miracle is enough to defeat rational and critical thinking, which is already reason enough not to assume ‘miracle’ is the default position for an unexplained event.

What is the default position? It could be any of: “We’re looking for more evidence at this time”, “There is currently no available evidence to make a reasonable conclusion”, “We just don’t know”.

Notice “We just don’t know” doesn’t make a UFO sighting irrefutable proof of life outside Earth. The same can be said for miracles.

15.- Is there any supporting evidence for the miracles performed by Jesus and His apostles?

The people who wrote there is are the people who benefited directly from it over 2000 years ago.

Alternative answer:
Which is more reasonable to assume, that “for one person [Virgin Mary] the entire natural order of the Universe was suspended, or that an Israelite minx lied about her sexual relations?”. The quote remains unattributed – I cannot for the life of me remember who said it.

16.- If life did not arise out of a primordial soup, couldn’t it have arisen out of the chemicals from oceanic steam vents?

Yes.

17.- Why was Noah asked to take only two of each kind of animal onboard the ark?

Why are unicorns’ eyes red in the middle?

18.- Why did God create us if He knew we would perpetrate evil and oppression?

The answer Sword&Spirit gives rests on the assumption that God can be both omnipotent and omniscient at the same time.

This is clearly impossible, since an omnipotent God would not be omnipotent enough to stop himself from doing the future which his omniscient self saw. A hypothetical God could be either omnipotent or omniscient but not both.

As for the question of evil, humanity has spread great evil, yes. But simultaneously it has also done works of incredible good. None of it could be attributable to God (except for the works of evil done, foolishly, in His name), but to the characteristics of human nature, derived from millions of years of natural selection.

20.- What about the evidence for reincarnation?

Bring me evidence for the afterlife and I’ll talk.

21.- How can a loving God condemn people to eternal torment in hell for refusing to submit to His authority? That God would punish to such an incredible degree seems utterly contrary to our notion of love.

Because He’s a jealous, vindictive bastard, the most virulent and oppressive character in fiction. Just read the Old Testament. It’s all there, the infanticide, the genocide, the incitment to racial hatred and warfare.

Sword&Spirit is right in noting that “[…] it seems utterly contrary to our notion of love”. It is! The whole concept of God is somewhat unnecessary and unnatural in human nature.

22.- Is there life on Mars?

There well could be resilient microorganisms. Sword&Spirits makes the wonderful and unfounded suggestion that they could, were they to exist, have come from Earth (could we have come from somewhere else, then?).

If microorganisms are ever found on Mars (or elsewhere outside Earth), Creationism is in deep shit. Hence the ancestral fear of NASA.

23.- Some Christians have suggested that Noah’s ark still rests on top of Mt. Ararat and that its discovery will provide definitive proof of the Genesis Flood. What does the physical evidence say, and what does the Bible say?

Said Christians are incredibly foolish for sticking out their necks so far.

24.- How can we tell whether God or mere men were responsible for the Bible or for any other book of “holy writ?”

You can’t.

For a more recent example, ask the founders of Mormonism who wrote their Holy Book. It’s the same principle as Christianity, only 2000 years later.

25.- Is there a day of judgment, and if so, how will God evaluate our lives?

No.

If there is such a momentuous event of destruction, it will come with the Sun going Supernova in 5 billion years. And once it does, it just will, and that will be the end of that. Sorry for being such a brutal realist, but it’s a lot easier to face life when you take it at face value than if you imagine you’re in some goddamned plan for something Big. If you want to feel comfort of the kind religious diatribe gives you, I highly recommend morphine. It Keeps Fundamentalists Quiet™.

26.- So what’s the big deal with the age of the Earth? Why is it so important?

As far as religions go, it honestly isn’t that big a deal. The Catholics deal with it very elegantly, choosing and picking from the Bible, evading problems such as the book of Leviticus or Genesis.

Sometime back, someone somewhere must have made the arbitrary decision for Evangelical American doctrine that the Bible is the Ultimate and Literal Truth. This causes a lot of problems for the supporters (who every day deceive themselves into looking past the glaring contradictions and incitement to violence) and for rational thinkers who just want the Biblical Literalists to leave everyone else the heck alone.

27.- You guys say you are against abortion, but what about abortion in the case of rape or incest? You surely wouldn’t force a woman to keep a child in this case!

[impersonating biblical literalist] Because we don’t care for women, goddamit.

28.- Does God really want us to prove everything? Shouldn’t we take some things on pure faith?

No. If we did, we’d be stuck with the chariot-god instead of the nuclear fusion Sun model and with intelligent falling instead of gravity.

Faith, by definition, is belief in the absence of evidence – belief even when evidence is pointing to the exact contrary. How this is virtuous is beyond rational thought.

29.- If you get ten people reading the Bible, you’ll get ten different interpretations of it, right?

Aaaah, it depends. You will still feel the underlying theme of violence in the Old Testament and the fuzzy ambiguity in the New one, no matter how you read it.

30.- Everyone’s interpretation of the Bible seems different. How can you tell who’s right and who’s wrong?

It depends on where you’re born. If you’re born in the Middle East, then the Mufti is right. If you’re born in the Bible belt, then your nearest priest is. If you’re born in Scandinavia or into a rational, modern family anywhere in the world, then you are your own master, which is truly something beautiful.

31.- The Bible can say anything you want it to, can’t it?

32.- Job’s Leviathan and Behemoth sound like fairy tales to me.

33.- Why was incest acceptable in Genesis but illegal in Exodus?

See my answer to #12.

34.- Why must there be a hell?

Ah, an insidiously fallacious question! No, there is no evidence for Hell, and there is no need for one.

If you are telling me that there needs to be a Heaven and Hell in order for religious people to do good or bad, then quite frankly the moral lesson here is appalling. Personally, I don’t think there is enough evidence to suggest anything after death, but I’m not amoral. I don’t kill people out of pleasure. Indeed, the moral value of a good deed from an atheist or humanist is probably a lot greater than that of a religious person, because the faithful presumably only perform acts of good to secure their entrance into Heaven, whereas the ‘faithless’ perform good deeds because they consider goodness to be a human virtue, religion being irrelevant.

35.- Why does God bless wicked people?

Why do leprechauns wear yellow hats?

36.- What happens to people who have never heard about Christ? If Jesus is the only way to eternal life what chance do they have? How could God judge them?

That’s why there is a Hell *natch*.

37.- Where did Cain get his wife, plus all the people to build and occupy his city?

What is the colour of abstraction?

38.- If God created us, who created God?

Have I not answered this yet? Yes, I have! It’s #6! And my answer was:

A theological answer will be shrouded in mystical language which basically says: He is infinite, or some variation thereof.

It is, however, far more elegant, scientifically sound and logical to assume the infinity of time, or the universe, or of the Mother Brane and not of a complex creator such as a God. Indeed, one of the biggest problems a theist will have in a story of Creation is the explanation for God. In their own rhetoric, “if something is irreducibly complex, there must be a designer”. Presumably, God, being in the capacity to design things of irreducible complexity, must be irreducibly complex himself. Don’t try and pursue this point of view, the ‘irreducibly complex’ line of Creationist thought is some of the most uninspired and brain draining rhetoric to have stepped out of organised religion.

Not as bad as the ‘eroding continents’ one though.

Tsk-tsk, filling up the list of questions with dupes to deceive. There must be a Commandment you broke in there somewhere, Sword&Spirit.

39.- How can the Bible be trusted if it contains scientific errors? If the Bible includes scientific errors, either God is not totally knowledgeable about the universe and the earth, or the Bible is not the word of God.

Wise question. You can’t. Simple answer. The Bible is a fantastic source of literary entertainment and indeed, of literary education.

It is not, however, the inerrant authority on all things, it’s a bronze age myth. Take it as one.

40.- Death seems so horrible. Why would a God of love make us go through such an experience?

Our existence on this planet is a fleeting moment. And it is this very fleetingness that gives life it’s intrinsic quality and beauty.

You have but one chance on this planet. Enjoy it!

“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else (God in the case of adults) has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point.” Richard Dawkins

“Who said life must have meaning? Why can’t life just be life? My family has three cats, We enjoy watching them play, eat, sleep, lie in the sun and chase bugs. Do they ask themselves what is the meaning of life? Is their life any less livable because they possess no coherent purpose for existence? Since we humans have larger brains with a greater rational capacity and self consciousness than other animals we somehow assume we must be worthy of a higher purpose. Isn’t that arrogance?

To ask the question about the meaning in life one must first assume the presence of someone to bestow bestow that meaning. This usually amounts to granting the existence of a transcendent reality, a supernatural realm to which we can somehow relate in a “meaningful manner.” If you can live without the need for meaning in life, then you will likewise not need the invented frame of reference, the plan and purpose of a divine will. To many people life is its own meaning, and the word “meaning” becomes meaningless.” Dan Barker

41.- Was the sun really created after the plants?

No.

42.- Is the biblical creation account out of sync in its sequence?

43.- How does the Bible explain cavemen?

44.- Did dinosaurs and men walk together? What is the scientific evidence, and what does the Bible say?

See my answer to #12.

45.- Creation or evolution – what is the truth?

Sword&Spirit makes a commendable beginning by saying “Definitions, here, as always, are important”.

They are. Creation is a story taken out of a book written by primitive civilisations well over 4000 years ago. Today, we can tell the age of the Earth with remarkable scientific accuracy, back then they only had the benefit of, well, guessing.

Evolution is a scientific theory. The definition of a scientific theory is that which is no longer a hypothesis, a postulation, but, thanks to piles of mounting evidence and peer-reviewed agreement, becomes as effective as saying the ‘Law’ of gravity.

There is no, absolutely no evidence whatsoever that suggests the truthfulness of the story of biblical Creation. Creationists take aim at the gaps in the evidence (presumably at a murder trial, they would not accept any evidence short of complete cinematic footage of events) and assume that the absence of evidence in some areas is enough to conclusively prove their theory, which presents no evidence at all.

Even if supernatural creation is an answer, there is nothing to say it has to be the Abrahamic story of Creation. It could just as well be Hindu Creation or Shinto or Sikh or the Flying Spaghetti Monster Creation (midgits included).

In any case, evolution is the only really acceptable answer simply because the evidence says it applies. And teaching Creation in schools is no more acceptable than enforcing systematic child abuse in schools.

46.- Why did God give us a strong sex drive if He wanted us to avoid immorality?

There’s nothing anywhere that links sex with immorality.

People, like other animals, fuck. For some reason, religion has a hard time dealing with it.

47.- Is there any evidence for or against Joshua’s long day?

48.- How could Adam live to 930 if he was to die on the day he disobeyed God?

See my answer to #12.

49.- If there is no fear in love, why are we commanded to love and fear God?

Mind control. Religions depend on being able to scare the living shit out of the faithful, as well as all their money and obedience.

There is no simpler explanation. If you have ever “given until it hurt” to a preacher or televangelist, then you’ve been fleeced. On the internet, we call it ‘phishing’.

To love is not to fear. Deal with it.

50.- Why does Peter say the earth will perish when Psalms say it will last forever?

51.- Why did John the Baptist deny that he was Elijah when Jesus said he was Elijah?

52.- If Jesus died just before the Sabbath and was resurrected just after, why did He claim that He would remain dead for three days and three nights?

53.- Who are we to believe, Paul or James? Paul says we are saved by faith alone, James that faith without works is dead.

54.- Will the ark of the covenant ever be found?

See my answer to #12.

55.- Are angels real or fantasy?

Angels are as real as leprechauns. It is your choice to believe in them or not, but rest assured they’re just as real as the tooth fairy.

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11 Responses

  1. Thanks for taking the time to respond to these questions.

    Great Blog. Glad I found it.

    aA

  2. Why thank you very much.

  3. […] Sceptic Answers to Christian FAQs Sword&Spirit hosts a very interesting list of FAQ’s which are designed to lead the reader into being convinced by […] […]

  4. Of course the bible as interpreted can be thrown in the gutter. The only problem I have is the creation of the universe. Where did matter come from?. Matter would have been needed for all theories of creation. The “big bang” or any of them. The only answer it seems to me would be a “supreme” or “supernatural” being that “places” the matter in the void of space. What do you think?

  5. The only answer is not necessarily a supernatural creation. If you go ‘behind’ the Big Bang as far as the timeline is concerned, then you enter truly unexplained territory.

    However, this does not mean science does not have explanations. Indeed, there are many explanations which can collect evidence (and indeed will) in future space probes.

    Think about it this way: go back 4000 years and try to explain the Sun.

    Science is always pushing back the frontiers of doubt and supernaturalism. There really is little other places for superstition to hide in, and the ‘origin of origins’ is one of said places.

  6. Icannot believe you would tell such shamefaced lies under the title ‘Gospel of reason’. As every sane man knows unicorns eyes are not red in the middle. They are deep violet. How could you?

  7. Elvis 42:2
    “And hail ye unbelievers for the colour with a u of the unicorn’s eye was deep red, right there in the middle”

  8. […] should go read the rest of these.  They are most insightful. […]

  9. mojoxxrisen: Your argument seems to be that: in order for matter to be created, there must have been something to create it; and since creation is an act only possible of things that can do something, there must be a creator.

    Personally, I think the problem starts at the first sentence. 🙂 Common sense doesn’t apply when you go back to before time existed, to before the universe was transparent… it’s so far out of our experience, reasoning in such an obvious way gets us nowhere.

  10. try taking the time to ask God to reveal Himself to you if He really exists and see what happens.
    If He exists and you find that out it could make your life better and if He doesn’t and you find that out it could settle it for you. As it is you are spending a lot of time and effort not talking to Him but talking about Him and His method of trying to communicate with you and others in our world.
    Just try listening instead of ranting and ranting for a bit.
    What do you have to lose?

  11. I’ve already found the one and true deity, sloggy, thanks for caring.

    His Noodlyness‘ embrace is open to all. You should look into it.

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