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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Fallacious Arguments of Atheists and Fundamentalists: Cherry Picking (Part II)

In the light of Mr. Gavin Rumney's recent comments on his Otagosh blog concerning my first post in this series, I thought that it would be appropriate to remind my readers of a few things about my own perspective on Scripture (I am a regular reader of Mr. Rumney's blog and have great respect for his posts and comments). I completely reject the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. I believe that the Bible contains factual, moral and spiritual errors and contradictions, and I am in agreement with most of the specific instances of these that are cited by atheists and biblical critics as part of their arguments against God and the Bible. For the record, I also appreciate Mr. Rumney's post about the ability of atheists to be good and moral people - I personally know many atheists who are just that. My point in saying that is simply this: I do not wish to be numbered among those who ridicule or denigrate atheists because of their questioning of God and the Bible.

Nevertheless, as I implied in my initial post on this topic, I do believe that many of the arguments employed by Atheists against God and the Bible are founded on some fallacious reasoning that they share with Fundamentalists. I am fully aware that such a connection will be upsetting to folks from both camps, but I believe these statements from some prominent atheists demonstrate the validity of this thesis:

From The Thinking Atheist: "Think about it. Even if Yahweh existed, would he be truly worthy of our praise and allegiance? Or is the truly moral person obligated to shun and denounce this petty, jealous, cruel and murderous tyrant?"

From Christopher Hitchens in God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything: "The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals."
(Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2011/12/the-20-best-christopher-hitchens-quotes/#ixzz3CAAdAoUT)

From Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” and “To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries” (Read more: http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3044365-the-god-delusion)

From John Loftus at Debunking Christianity: "Now to just a few of the reasons why I don’t believe the Bible is God’s word.
1) I cannot stomach the whole notion of hell by conservative Christians today. 2) The Bible contains too many beliefs which we reject today. 3) The God of the Bible is a barbaric God. 4) There are so many unanswered questions in the Bible about God, his nature and his work. 5) There are problems I have with the claims of miracles in the Bible. 6) Then too, the way that NT writers and persons argued leave a whole lot to be desired."

From Harry McCall at Debunking Christianity: "No, I don't hate the Bible and Christianity, I love the truth and these two are not it!"

In his Drunk With Blood: God's Killings In The Bible and Dwindling In Unbelief, Steve Wells lists 158 "killing events" attributed to God in the Bible. He estimates the total number of people killed by God (as recorded in the Bible) to be about 25 million souls. He encourages his readers to examine each of these events for themselves in the pages of the Bible and concludes: "It is nearly impossible to believe in the Bible once you have read them."

In reviewing the above statements of these prominent atheists, it is apparent that they employ their evidence of Scriptural error and inconsistency (which I accept for the most part) to dismiss both God and the Bible. In the realm of debating, this is referred to as selective use of evidence or Suppressing Evidence or Cherry Picking. How does this apply to the arguments of atheists?

Let's examine Steve Wells work as a prime example of the point I'm attempting to make here. As stated above, Mr. Wells cites 158 killing events that are attributed to God by the Bible. He quotes the statement attributed to God in Deuteronomy: "I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword will devour flesh - the blood of the slaughtered and the captives, and the heads of the enemy leaders." (Deuteronomy 32:42, NLT here and throughout) Also, here are a few of the more prominent events that he references in his works:

Noachian Flood (Genesis 7:23)
Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25)
Seven Year Worldwide Famine (Genesis 41)
Plague on the Firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 12:29-30)
Israelite Rebellion (Exodus 32:28)
Plague for Worshipping the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:35)
Plague for Israelite Complaining (Numbers 11:33)
Plague for Another Rebellion (Numbers 16:49)
Midianite Massacre (Numbers 31)
Annihilation of Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2)
Annihilation of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3)
Jericho Massacre (Joshua 6)
Defeat of the Five Amorite Armies (Joshua 10:20)
Defeat of the Armies of the Northern Hill Country (Joshua 11)
Gideon's Defeat of the Midianites (Judges 7)
Annihilation of Benjamin (Judges 20)
Disrespect for the Ark (I Samuel 6:19)
Amelekite Genocide (I Samuel 15:1-7)
Census Plague (II Samuel 24:1-15)
Arameans defeat by God of the Hills (I Kings 20:28-29)
Collapse of the Wall of Aphek (I Kings 20:30)
Assyrian Soldiers Killed By Angel of the Lord (II Kings 19:35)
God Defeats Israel (II Chronicles 13:16-17)
God Defeats Ethiopians (II Chronicles 14:9-13)
God Allows King Pekah to Kill Judean Soldiers (II Chronicles 28:6)
Purim Killings (Esther 9)

This evidence leads Mr. Wells and his associates to conclude that the Bible is worthless, and that the God it purports to represent is a monster. I don't dispute most of their evidence, but what about all of the scriptures that point to a different kind of God? Let's consider some of this evidence:

I count 48 references to God as being merciful or having mercy in the NLT including:
"For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the solemn covenant he made with your ancestors." (Deuteronomy 4:31)
"How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours!" (Psalm 116:5)
"The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love." (Psalm 145:8)
"So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." (Hebrews 4:16)

I count 11 references to God's compassionate nature in Scripture including:
"You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate." (Luke 6:36)

I counted 112 references to God's "unfailing love" in the pages of the NLT including:
"With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home." (Exodus 15:13)
"But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands." (Deuteronomy 5:10)
"Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23:6)
"How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings." (Psalm 36:7)
"Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens." (Psalm 89:2)
"For the law was given through Moses, but God's unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)

I count 10 references to God's longsuffering nature or patience.

I count 10 references to God's kindness.

I count 10 references to God's forgiving nature.

Thus, if we accept all 158 of Mr. Well's scriptural examples of God's murderous and cold-blooded nature, we must also acknowledge the over 200 references that I have cited describing a God of mercy, compassion, patience, kindness, forgiveness and unfailing love. Yes, this represents one of those glaring contradictions that atheists are fond of pointing out relative to Scripture; but it also demonstrates that there is an alternate view of God presented in the pages of the Bible from the one that Mr. Well's has chosen to underscore.

We cannot let the Fundamentalists off the hook on this one either. My Fundamentalist friends would simply cite all of the passages that I have referenced above and ignore Mr. Wells' citations (or they would dismiss them by claiming that God is entitled to do whatever "He" wants to do). Either way you slice it, this is Cherry Picking at its finest.

It's ironic to me that I have been accused by many of my fundamentalist friends of Cherry Picking for attempting to present an alternate view of homosexuality vis-à-vis the Bible (although I didn't ignore the scriptures that contradicted my thesis). Likewise, I have been accused of Cherry Picking by my atheist friends for pointing to evidence of Divine inspiration in Scripture. Both sides seem to dislike any information that contradicts or gets in the way of their philosophical agendas. To me, sound reasoning dictates a careful examination and acknowledgement of all of the available evidence.

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