Clever methodology aimed at detecting ‘stealth atheism’

From an article in Vox entitled How many American atheists are there really?

How to find “closet atheists”

So if you can’t ask people outright whether they’re atheist and get an honest response, how do you go about finding them?

Gervais and Najle set up a very subtle test. They sent a nationally representative poll to 2,000 Americans, who were randomly assigned to two conditions.

The first condition asked participants to read through a bunch of statements like, “I am a vegetarian,” “I own a dog,” and, “I have a dishwasher in my kitchen.”

All the participants had to do was simply write down the number of statements that were true for them.

The value of this method is that participants don’t have to directly say, “I am a vegetarian,” or, “I’m a dog owner” — they only have to acknowledge the number of statements that apply to them. That alone should zero out any embarrassment or hesitance to admit to a particular item.

That’s important because the other 1,000 or so participants saw the exact same list — but with one statement added: “I believe in God.”

By comparing the responses between the two groups, Gervais and Najle could then estimate how many people don’t believe in God. (Because both groups of 1,000 poll takers should, in theory, have the same number of vegetarians, dog owners, and so on in each group, any increases in the number of agreed-to statements from the first group to the second should be reflective of the number of people who don’t believe in God.)

One thing is clear from the results: Much more than 10 or 11 percent of the country (as assessed in Gallup and Pew polling) does not believe in God. “We can say with a 99 percent probability that it’s higher than [11 percent],” said Gervais.

His best estimate: Around 26 percent of Americans don’t believe in God. “According to our samples, about 1 in 3 atheists in our country don’t feel comfortable disclosing their lack of belief,” Najle explains in an email.

Gervais admits this method isn’t perfect, and yields an answer with a wide margin of error. (On the other end of the margin of error, around 35 percent of Americans don’t believe in God.) But the most fundamental question he and Najle are asking here is do polling firms like Gallup and Pew undercount atheists? And it seems the answer is yes.

187 thoughts on “Clever methodology aimed at detecting ‘stealth atheism’”

  1. CharlieMCharlieM

    OMagain in reply to Eric: The share of Americans who identify as atheists has roughly doubled in the past several years. I won’t bother to link to any supporting evidence, you can find that easily enough should you care.

    My opinion: It has to do with the evolution of freedom of the individual. In past times people automatically grew up within the religious traditions of their tribe or culture. Rather than being free in their beliefs they adhered to tribal beliefs. We have progressed to the stage where, in the modern Western society at least, a person can follow her or his individual beliefs regardless of their cultural traditions. Atheism is a natural consequence of this path to freedom. Because there has been complete separation of humans from any higher principle they can believe or not believe as free thinking individuals.

  2. colewd

    Robin,

    No, it’s scientifically and scholarly definitional.

    So your claim is that scholars universally agree that there is no supporting evidence for the resurrection. What do you think is the evidence that supports the resurrection?

  3. newton

    colewd: What do you think is the evidence that supports the resurrection?

    He doesn’t, what do you think is the best evidence and what is it based on?

  4. Flint

    colewd:
    Science is by definition tentative.So Gould was making a philosophical statement regarding Darwinian evolution.The problems with the theory started to surface since the discovery of DNA and its code like function.

    Huh? The discovery of genes, and DNA, have corroborated Darwin’s model, and indeed have made it more powerful by providing the underlying mechanisms causing what Darwin observed at a higher level. Ratifying a theory with additional evidence is not a “problem” for the theory.

    Michael Dentons book, Evolution a Theory in Crisis, began to surface the contradictory biochemical evidence.This was supported and expanded upon 10 years later by Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s black box.

    By which time Denton had rejected the premises of the book you cite, having recognized that it was based on incomplete information improperly understood. Behe, now, isn’t honest like Denton. Citing Behe in biology is like citing Spicer for public policy.

    Gould was a Paleontologist and from the fossil record stand point the contradictory evidence was less evident.Richard Dawkins did recognize the contradictory biochemical evidence and tried to counter it with cumulative selection supported by Weasel.

    Huh? WOW! No, the biochemical evidence supported, rather than contradicted, the theory. Dawkins’ weasel was an attempt to show the power of selection. It was NOT intended to model evolution, much less somehow illustrate your imaginary contradiction.

    The program, however, was not able to work through the sequence without a target.

    It wasn’t intended to. You are criticizing a program intended to illustrate one thing, for failure to illustrate something else. This is either dishonest or uninformed.

    Since you are a programmer,I assume you understand these issues well.So I would say at this point it would be perverse not to have healthy skepticism regarding Darwinian evolution.

    As a programmer, I understand that a program written for one purpose, cannot be legitimately criticized for its failure to do something else. But even if you are not a programmer, this shouldn’t be too complicated for you to understand.

    (And I should add that your reading list needs to be expanded. You are regurgitating long-debunked creationist claims, as though you had never been exposed to their corrections.)

    Science for the most part is study of the natural world.So I would agree that it is different the Religious beliefs.I would however say that the natural world contains evidence that its ultimate cause required creative intelligence.

    Yes, of course you would SAY that. What you cannot do is SHOW that. If you think you can, Templeton’s million dollar offer to fund ANY study showing that is probably still available, there having been no takers for a decade. Just think, all you need to do is find ANY EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that there’s a requirement for creative intelligence, and that million is yours. Behe can’t do it, Dembski can’t do it, can you?

  5. newton

    Erik: And? Therefore when someone there converts to e.g. Buddhism or Hinduism or animism of which there are no other practitioners, the explanation is still “cultural indoctrination”?

    Alan said largely cultural indoctrination which means other factors exist and you said predominantly atheistic means there exists a minority of non atheists. So when this hypothetical person converted what was his pre-conversion status?

  6. RobinRobin

    colewd:
    Robin,

    So your claim is thatscholars universally agreethat there is no supporting evidence for the resurrection.

    Incorrect. I am saying that there is no supporting evidence for the resurrection by scientific and scholarship standards. That some Christian apologists (such as William Lane Craig and Josh McDowell to name two) wish to make exceptions, beg the question, and engage in special pleading for the story of the resurrection does not change that fact.

    What do you think is the evidence that supports the resurrection?

    I don’t think there is any.

    Let’s take one piece both Craig and McDowell rely upon heavily: the empty tomb. Both McDowell and Craig take for granted that the claims of an empty tomb are beyond doubt, but of course they are not. No one has ever found, let alone verified the actual tomb that Jesus’ body was supposed interred in. It’s actually an odd claim too in that the only place that could ever be agreed upon to be Jesus’ tomb would, by definition, have to be empty. So there’s absolutely no way to actually verify that any spot was actually the final resting tomb that Jesus’ body was put in, let alone verify that any such tomb even exists. From a scholarship standpoint, nevermind a scientific standpoint, this reduces the overall strength of both McDowell’s and Craig’s assessments as they do not match the standards historians use for assessing other historical events.

    What we’re left with then is a biblical stories attesting that Jesus’ tomb was empty after three days. But even those stories do not match up, so they are, by scholarly standards, considered weak hearsay at best. There is nothing that meets the standard of primary evidence for the empty tomb of which I’m aware.

  7. colewd

    Flint,

    As a programmer, I understand that a program written for one purpose, cannot be legitimately criticized for its failure to do something else. But even if you are not a programmer, this shouldn’t be too complicated for you to understand.

    This program was written to model commutative selection. Why do you think it requires a target? Do you have a model for your drunk watchmaker? If not why not?

    You claim that DNA is not a problem for evolution yet its sequential nature is making it a problem for you to model how changes in genotype translate to changes in phenotype.

    You say that Denton retracted? Do you realize he just published a followup book last year confirming is first book?

    How did you come to the conclusion that Behe is dishonest? I have had a couple of conversations with him and found him to be one of the most thoughtful straight forward guys I have ever met. Do you know him?

  8. colewd

    Robin,

    Incorrect. I am saying that there is no supporting evidence for the resurrection by scientific and scholarship standards. That some Christian apologists (such as William Lane Craig and Josh McDowell to name two) wish to make exceptions, beg the question, and engage in special pleading for the story of the resurrection does not change that fact.

    There are many more scholars that support the evidence of the resurrection and the empty tomb is one piece of the evidence. What are specifically the arguments and why do you think they are not valid?

    I am saying that there is no supporting evidence for the resurrection by scientific and scholarship standards.

    You are repeating this claim but not supporting it.

  9. Alan FoxAlan Fox

    colewd: You are repeating this claim but not supporting it.

    HeRobin’s making an observation there is no evidence beyond hearsay that supports any supernatural occurrence around the “life of Jesus”. I know of none either. How to prove none exists? Far easier to present a piece of positive evidence other than hearsay. Can you do so?

    Can anyone?

    ETA Robin. My old mum would say “who’s she, the cat’s mother?” 🙂

  10. John HarshmanJohn Harshman

    colewd: You claim that DNA is not a problem for evolution yet its sequential nature is making it a problem for you to model how changes in genotype translate to changes in phenotype.

    What does that mean?

  11. RobinRobin

    colewd:
    Robin,

    There are many more scholars that support the evidence of the resurrection and the empty tomb is one piece of the evidence.

    I always get a kick out these unsubstantiated Internet boasts. “Yeah..well…there’s a bunch of people who disagree!” Quite the rebuttal…

    Tell, me…what percentage of the scholarly community at large do these “many scholars” who support the evidence of the resurrection and empty tomb represent? Got any idea? I’m betting they don’t even constitute 1%. So really, why should I be impressed?

    What are specifically the arguments and why do you think they are not valid?

    It’s not my claim, so I’m not about to try and list every apologetic argument for the validity of the resurrection. If you have some you think are strong, cite them if you want to discuss them. Thus far I’ve not come across any I find even remotely credible or valid, but I’m kind of excited by the prospect of being totally overcome by some argument/evidence I’ve not yet come across. Surprise me.

    That said, here’s something to chew on: there’s no actual credibility or validity in stating that the empty tomb is evidence of a resurrection when no one can actually point to an empty tomb.

    Saying that the unsubstantiated third-hand claims of an empty tomb in the bible constitute valid and credible historic evidence is akin to saying that the unsubstantiated third-hand claims of Gandalf’s white attire in the Lord of the Rings constitute valid and credible evidence for Gandalf’s resurrection. I doubt there are many people (if any) who take that latter as a valid, historic event, yet there is no difference between the evidence for the two accounts. Why should the biblical stories of the resurrection get special consideration?

    BTW, I chose Gandalf’s resurrection as a counter quite specifically. Tolkien never claimed the Lord of the Rings was a work of fiction and noted in the book itself that the events related are the best attempt to translate the events as they were related in The Red Book of the West March. To dismiss the LotRs as a work of fiction is then to dismiss the bible stories as the same.

    You are repeating this claim but not supporting it.

    Burden of proof fallacy. I’m not the one making the claim for any scientific or scholarly evidence of the resurrection. Unless you have something that actually constitutes legitimate evidence, I’m under no burden to support anything to the contrary. All I need note is that the unsubstantiated third-hand claims do not meet the standards and are simply weak hearsay. If those claims are enough evidence for you, have at it. It doesn’t cut it for the vast majority of scholars and scientists however.

  12. RobinRobin

    Alan Fox: HeRobin’s making an observation there is no evidence beyond hearsay that supports any supernatural occurrence around the “life of Jesus”. I know of none either. How to prove none exists? Far easier to present a piece of positive evidence other than hearsay. Can you do so?

    Can anyone?

    ETA Robin. My old mum would say “who’s she, the cat’s mother?”

    HAHAHA! I’d not heard that phrase before and had to go look it up. There are some great comedy bits these days with people referring to other folks in the third-person while they are present. But appreciated nonetheless.

  13. colewd

    Alan Fox,

    HeRobin’s making an observation there is no evidence beyond hearsay that supports any supernatural occurrence around the “life of Jesus”. I know of none either. How to prove none exists? Far easier to present a piece of positive evidence other than hearsay. Can you do so?

    Alan, hearsay is a standard of evidence from a court of law. In this case we have recorded testimony of eye witnesses. So we have four books from different recorders documenting the same events. There is some inconsistency but that frankly adds credibility as it shows the information was not filtered later.

  14. colewd

    Robin,

    I always get a kick out these unsubstantiated Internet boasts. “Yeah..well…there’s a bunch of people who disagree!” Quite the rebuttal…

    Tell, me…what percentage of the scholarly community at large do these “many scholars” who support the evidence of the resurrection and empty tomb represent? Got any idea? I’m betting they don’t even constitute 1%. So really, why should I be impressed?

    Here a list of 21st century christian theologian scholars.
    21st century[edit]
    Marilyn McCord Adams (born 1943)
    James Alison (born 1959)
    Marcella Althaus-Reid (1952–2009)
    Rubem Alves (1933–2014)
    John Ankerberg (born 1945)
    Robert Arp
    Joel R. Beeke (born 1952)
    Alistair Begg (born 1952)
    Leonardo Boff (born 1938)
    Marcus Borg (1942-2015)
    Gregory Boyd (born 1957)
    Jae Brown (born 1964)
    Michael L. Brown (born 1955)
    Don Carson (born 1946)
    William Lane Craig (born 1949)
    Charles E. Curran (born 1934)
    Gavin D’Costa (born 1958)
    Marva Dawn
    Mark Dever
    Kwesi Dickson
    Sinclair Ferguson
    Roger T Forster (Born 1933)
    John Frame (born 1939)
    Robert A. J. Gagnon
    Chris Glaser
    Norman Geisler
    Bob Goss
    Stanley Grenz (1950–2005)
    Wayne Grudem
    Gary Habermas
    Scott Hahn
    Catharina Halkes (1920–2011)
    Stanley Hauerwas (born 1940)
    Michael Horton
    Eric Hovind
    Kent Hovind
    Bolaji Idowu
    Robert Jenson
    Elizabeth Johnson
    Scott J. Jones (born 1954)
    Musimbi Kanyoro
    Timothy J. Keller
    John Lennox
    Erwin Lutzer
    John F. MacArthur (born 1939)
    John S Mbiti (born 1931)
    Alister McGrath (born 1953)
    Josh McDowell
    Scotty McLennan (born 1948)
    John J McNeill
    Jürgen Moltmann (born 1926)
    J.P. Moreland
    R. Albert Mohler Jr.
    Jesse Mugambi (born 1947)
    Daniela Müller (born 1957)
    George Newlands (born 1941)
    Thomas C. Oden (born 1931)
    Mercy Oduyoye (born 1934)
    Thomas Jay Oord (born 1965)
    Wolfhart Pannenberg (born 1928)
    Eugene Peterson (born 1932)
    Clark Pinnock
    John Piper
    Alvin Plantinga
    John Polkinghorne
    Vern Poythress
    Andrew Purves
    Robert L. Reymond
    Adrian Rogers (September 12, 1931 – November 15, 2005)
    Lamin Sanneh
    Douglas Stuart
    Edward Schillebeeckx (1914–2009)
    Dorothee Soelle (1929–2003)
    John Shelby Spong (born 1931)
    R. C. Sproul
    R.C. Sproul, Jr.
    Elizabeth Stuart
    Carsten Peter Thiede (1952–2004)
    Anthony Thiselton (born 1937)
    Stephen Tong
    Miroslav Volf
    Daniel B. Wallace (born 1952)
    Graham Ward (born 1955)
    Keith Ward (born 1938)
    Paul Washer
    Dallas Willard
    J. Rodman Williams
    Rowan Williams (born 1950)
    William Willimon (born 1946)
    Nancy Wilson
    Ben Witherington
    N. T. Wright
    Ravi Zacharias

    NT Wright above has written extensively on the resurrection.

    That said, here’s something to chew on: there’s no actual credibility or validity in stating that the empty tomb is evidence of a resurrection when no one can actually point to an empty tomb.

    Saying that the unsubstantiated third-hand claims of an empty tomb in the bible constitute valid and credible historic evidence is akin to saying that the unsubstantiated third-hand claims of Gandalf’s white attire in the Lord of the Rings constitute valid and credible evidence for Gandalf’s resurrection. I doubt there are many people (if any) who take that latter as a valid, historic event, yet there is no difference between the evidence for the two accounts. Why should the biblical stories of the resurrection get special consideration?

    BTW, I chose Gandalf’s resurrection as a counter quite specifically. Tolkien never claimed the Lord of the Rings was a work of fiction and noted in the book itself that the events related are the best attempt to translate the events as they were related in The Red Book of the West March. To dismiss the LotRs as a work of fiction is then to dismiss the bible stories as the same.

    You are comparing a single book the multiple lines of evidence, Luke, Mathew, John, Mark, Paul’s letters, Acts etc.

    Burden of proof fallacy. I’m not the one making the claim for any scientific or scholarly evidence of the resurrection.

    You introduced these words into the conversation. No problem, I will take this as a retraction of your claim.

  15. John HarshmanJohn Harshman

    colewd: In this case we have recorded testimony of eye witnesses. So we have four books from different recorders documenting the same events. There is some inconsistency but that frankly adds credibility as it shows the information was not filtered later.

    No, we have documents written long after the supposed events to which the names of supposed eye witnesses were attached. Three of the documents appear to be drawing, at least in part, from a common source that was not preserved.

    Inconsistency doesn’t add credibility. Face it, if all the accounts didn’t contradict each other at all, you’d use that as evidence for their credibility too, which just shows that you are able to interpret every conceivable fact as supporting your claim. This is Alex Jones level conspiracy theory: if there’s no evidence, that just shows how good the coverup was. Or perhaps Donald Trump level: if there’s evidence of attempts to influence the election, that just shows that Russia wasn’t involved, because if they were they would have been careful to leave no tracks.

  16. colewd

    John Harshman,

    No, we have documents written long after the supposed events to which the names of supposed eye witnesses were attached. Three of the documents appear to be drawing, at least in part, from a common source that was not preserved.

    Can you support this claim with an unbiased source?

  17. RobinRobin

    colewd:
    Alan Fox,

    Alan, hearsay is a standard of evidence from a court of law.

    Not a particularly acceptable one.

    In this case we have recorded testimony of eye witnesses.

    No we do not. There were no eye witnesses to the resurrection. That’s the whole reason later folks latched on to the empty tomb story; no one was in the tomb to see the resurrection.

    And, in point of fact, we have no eyewitnesses to any events claimed in the resurrection story. None of the supposed writers could have been there. Paul, the person writing closest to the events didn’t mention it. Peter doesn’t mention it. The likely earliest Gospel, Mark, was written some time around 70 years after the supposed event. Doubtful that author was present at the time. And note, Mark even relates that the women who supposedly saw the tomb “told no one” (Mark 16:8), so really…hardly an overwhelming validation of the account. Things only get hazier from there.

    So we have four books from different recorders documenting the same events. There is some inconsistency but that frankly adds credibility as it shows the information was not filtered later.

    But of course they don’t even document the same events. They are all inconsistent with one another. One would think that if this was an actual event, they could have at least been consistent on the details like how many women showed up at the tomb, who the women were, whether an angel appeared or didn’t, and so forth.

    The claim that the inconsistencies somehow add credibility is just an absurdly dubious claim. In history, the closer multiple authored pieces are, the more credible scholars take them. This also happens to be why witnesses and suspects are interviewed separately; the more disparate stories are, the less credible the accounts are seen.

  18. colewd

    newton,

    Just curious, are you claiming your sources are unbiased?

    Yes. There are scholars that went into this trying to disprove the evidence and were converted. Lee Strobel is an example.

  19. colewd

    Robin,

    No we do not. There were no eye witnesses to the resurrection. That’s the whole reason later folks latched on to the empty tomb story; no one was in the tomb to see the resurrection.

    There is documented testimony of witnesses of the crucification

    There is documented testimony of the empty tomb

    There is documented testimony of Christ living after the crucification.

    There is documented testimony of his ascension

    Saying there is no witnesses to the resurrection seems mute given the above evidence.

  20. RobinRobin

    colewd:
    Robin,

    Here a list of 21st century christian theologian scholars.
    21st century[edit]

    NT Wright above has written extensively on the resurrection.

    LOL! Couple of problems with your list. The late Professor Mary Adams didn’t give the empty tomb story much weight and didn’t find evidence for the story of the resurrection particularly solid. But then, she felt that knowledge of the resurrection was a revelation. My sister knew her in fact. Bad example right there. And the first one listed to boot. Ouch!

    Further, neither Kent nor Eric Hovind are considered scholars by anyone. Their opinions on the resurrection are completely irrelevant to this (or any) discussion.

    Alvin Plantinga makes no claims about the validity of the evidence of the resurrection accounts of which I’m aware and I’ve read him extensively.

    Your list is just a mishmash of Christian apologists, Christian philosophers, and a few scholars (that I recognize), and it appears that very few of those on the list actually support the evidence of the resurrection. This is isn’t doing much for your argument…

    You are comparing a single book the multiple lines of evidence, Luke, Mathew, John, Mark, Paul’s letters, Acts etc.

    I don’t know what you mean here.

    You introduced these words into the conversation.No problem, I will take this as a retraction of your claim.

    I have not retracted anything; I’m pointing out the basis of scholarship. If your scholars can’t present evidence for jesus’ resurrection that meets the minimum standards of credible acceptance, this is hardly my problem.

  21. RobinRobin

    colewd:
    Robin,

    There is documented testimony of witnesses of the crucification.

    No, we don’t. We have a 70 year gap between the supposed “witnesses” and the claimed events. Can’t be “eye-witness” anything.

    There is documented testimony of the empty tomb

    Again no. See above.

    There is documented testimony of Christ living after the crucification.

    Again no. See above.

    Which in forensic terms then is known as “circumstantial evidence”, not “eye-witness testimony”.

    There is documented testimony of his ascension

    I am baffled on how anyone could make this claim. Who was around to actual see Jesus supposed ascension and who recorded it? Same person? Most definitely not. Ergo…not documented testimony. This is logic 101.

    Saying there is no witnesses to the resurrection seems mute given the above evidence.

    I do not think this word means what you think it means…

  22. Flint

    colewd:
    This program was written to model commutative selection.Why do you think it requires a target?

    The weasel program was written to compare selection to non-selection, and illustrate the enormous power of selection. Dawkins did this because creationists tend to “forget” about selection, and claim evolution is purely random. He had a target for purpose of this illustration.

    Do you have a model for your drunk watchmaker?If not why not?

    ??? The drunk watchmaker IS a model. It was intended to illustrate an important point.

    You claim that DNA is not a problem for evolution yet its sequential nature is making it a problem for you to model how changes in genotype translate to changes in phenotype.

    ??? Are you trying to fault a theory for the crime of resting on the available data? Really? Inheritance and mutation work the way they work. Whether or not YOU know how to model it.

    You say that Denton retracted?Do you realize he just published a followup book last year confirming is first book?

    Do you realize he did the opposite?

    How did you come to the conclusion that Behe is dishonest?I have had a couple of conversations with him and found him to be one of the most thoughtful straight forward guys I have ever met.Do you know him?

    I’m sure he’s a nice guy. The image of him complaining in court that the 3-foot-high stack of the evidence he testified DOES NOT EXIST was too heavy, was classic. And THEN, he turned around and repeated that it didn’t exist! This is honesty?

    Behe has been corrected so many times that he is reduced to demanding molecular-level verified incontrovertible evidence of every mutation that has ever occurred in the last 4 billion years. THIS is honest?

    Sorry, but Behe has been relegated to the same creationist trash heap as Dembski and Meyer and Wells and others. Their claims have been thoroughly debunked, though of course they remain heroes to those blind to anything but their own rigid ideology.

  23. colewd

    Robin,

    Luke 24:50-53New International Version (NIV)

    The Ascension of Jesus
    50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

  24. Flint

    colewd:

    There is documented testimony of witnesses of the crucification

    No, there is not. There are the gospels, which do not agree in any detail about the crucifixion. None of which were written by, or even refer to, any actual witnesses.

    There is documented testimony of the empty tomb

    Yes, there is. Problem is, this documented testimony is precisely the same as the documented testimony for Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan. These tales were written by real people, and we have their writings.

    There is documented testimony of Christ living after the crucification.

    Actually, we have Paul saying that Christ appeared to him in visions. Paul says several times that NONE of what he knows of Christ was told to him by any man, but came from prophecy and visions alone. Whether you consider visions to be “documented testimony of Christ living” is up to you. Paul said Christ never actually came all the way to earth at all.

    There is documented testimony of his ascension

    Yes, in the gospels. Which follow the literary format of fiction, which cite no sources, which were written a generation or two after their alleged events (and 1000 miles away, and in a different language). And the gospels don’t agree with one another either.

    Saying there is no witnesses to the resurrection seems mute given the above evidence.

    But of course, you have not cited any evidence at all. You have made claims even apologist scholars dispute, or reject entirely.

    Face it, the evidence for Paul Bunyan is MUCH more solid. And if you had been indoctrinated into the Bunyan cult as a child, you would be swearing on a stack of lumber that Bunyan existed and we have real evidence. And absolutely nothing could change your mind.

  25. John HarshmanJohn Harshman

    colewd: Can you support this claim with an unbiased source?

    Probably not, since I presume your definition of “unbiased” is essentially “agrees with Bill”. But do you know what “synoptic” means?

  26. Flint

    colewd: Luke 24:50-53New International Version (NIV)
    The Ascension of Jesus
    50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

    ROFL! This is evidence? Do you realize that you are quoting fiction, which was based on Mark, who also wrote fiction? Do you realize Luke cited no sources, because there weren’t any? Do you want a genuine story about the blue ox? As told by Johnny Inkslinger himself? How could you doubt it?

  27. colewd

    Flint,

    ??? Are you trying to fault a theory for the crime of resting on the available data? Really? Inheritance and mutation work the way they work. Whether or not YOU know how to model it.

    If you can’t model it then the drunk watchmaker analogy is just a story. Thats ok because most of the “Theory” is just a story.

    When the claim was made for UCD without attaching a mechanism that became very problematic for the theory because UCD is a claim that transitions happen by reproduction yet no one can model this path.

    General Relativity has a model and experimental validation

    String theory has a model without experimental validation

    Evolution has

    The weasel program was written to compare selection to non-selection, and illustrate the enormous power of selection. Dawkins did this because creationists tend to “forget” about selection, and claim evolution is purely random. He had a target for purpose of this illustration.

    How does this illustrate the enormous power of selection? It does illustrate the enormous power of a fully sober guided process. 🙂

  28. colewd

    Flint,

    ROFL! This is evidence? Do you realize that you are quoting fiction, which was based on Mark, who also wrote fiction? Do you realize Luke cited no sources, because there weren’t any? Do you want a genuine story about the blue ox? As told by Johnny Inkslinger himself? How could you doubt it?

    How would you support this claim with an unbiased source?

  29. OMagain

    Saying there is no witnesses to the resurrection seems mute given the above evidence.

    There may have been witnesses but none of them went home and wrote down what they saw. Which seems odd, given what they saw. Any thoughts on why that was?

    I’m fairly sure I know what Judge Judy would say here. If it don’t make sense, it’s a lie.

  30. RobinRobin

    Btw, Bill, you do know that Bishop Spong wrote an entire rather extensively countering the claim of the historical accuracy of the resurrection stories in the bible and their validity as evidence, right?

  31. colewd

    Flint,

    But of course, you have not cited any evidence at all. You have made claims even apologist scholars dispute, or reject entirely.

    I have cited evidence. You claim it is not evidence but have not yet supported your claims that it is fiction. Can you quote an apologist scholar disputing the ascension?

  32. colewd

    Robin,

    Btw, Bill, you do know that Bishop Spong wrote an entire rather extensively countering the claim of the historical accuracy of the resurrection stories in the bible and their validity as evidence, right?

    Can you provide a citation?

  33. colewd

    OMagain,

    There may have been witnesses but none of them went home and wrote down what they saw. Which seems odd, given what they saw. Any thoughts on why that was?

    I know. All they had to do was go home open word on their PC and type 🙂

    Are you aware of the creeds?

  34. John HarshmanJohn Harshman

    colewd: I have cited evidence.

    To recap, as I see it, you have cited

    a) a list of people, some of whom may be scholars, and some of whom, though by no means all, have claimed that evidence of the resurrection exists;

    b) a mention that one person has written extensively on the subject;

    c) a quote from the bible.

    How many of those constitute evidence?

  35. John HarshmanJohn Harshman

    colewd:
    Robin,

    Can you provide a citation?

    Don’t be so lazy. It took me 3 seconds in google, and that was all spent typing in “bishop spong resurrection”. Here.

  36. RobinRobin

    colewd: Robin,

    Luke 24:50-53New International Version (NIV)

    The Ascension of Jesus
    50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

    I am well aware of Luke’s account, but apparently you are not grasping what the term “witness” means.

    At best, the books of Luke and Acts, which were very likely authored by the same person, were written about 80 some years after the events, but most scholars hold that 100 to 120 years is more likely. By definition then, the writer could not have been a witness to any of the events, let alone the ascension. At best, he’s relating someone else’s testimony, but since the author doesn’t actually state such, it’s nothing more than hearsay.

    What’s particularly curious is that this is the only author in the bible to even relate the event.

  37. colewd

    John Harshman,

    How many of those constitute evidence?

    It is all evidence some pieces stronger than others. The case is not based on one piece of evidence but a lot of evidence. 6 Months ago I did not think an analytical case could be made here but now I do. The book a Case of Christ by Lee Strobel was very convincing for a couple reasons.

    -He went in as an atheist determined to disprove Christianity.
    -He is a journalist with a law degree and works methodically.
    -He makes a strong case for the level of scholarship of Luke and John.
    -He makes a case based on all the evidence.

    I read the work of Bart Earlman who argues against Christ’s divinity but found his case weak as compared to Lee’s.

  38. Flint

    colewd:
    How would you support this claim with an unbiased source?

    Inadvertently, you actually raise an excellent point here. There ARE no sources that we today would regard as primary sources. NONE.

    Now, this is curious because there were many Jewish cults at the time, all of them writing a great deal about themselves and about each other. The number of surviving writings from before the gospel-claimed birth of Christ is quite large and extensive. And then, suddenly, they dried up. ALL lf them. Dio’s (Roman historian) writings survive EXCEPT for the period during which the gospels said Christ was born. That time period somehow wasn’t preserved. Greek histories (some of them many volumes long) of the time and place have equally suspicious holes during the period the gospels said Christ had his ministry and died. The remainder was preserved.

    So think about this. No early Christian writings, no Jewish writings from other sects during this period, no extra-Biblical writings, nada. And then, after this roughly 70 year period of total silence about the early Christian church from all contemporary sources, suddenly we have Mark (whoever that was) telling unsourced and unattributed tales — of things that happened long ago and far away.

    The ONLY exception is the (unforged, remaining) letters of Paul, and Paul was insistent that there was no earthly Christ. And from indirect references, we know that most of Paul’s letters were NOT preserved. We don’t know why.

    So no, there are no unbiased sources. There are no biased sources. There are NO primary sources of any kind. There should be, but none were preserved. And if the histories with the holes had been preserved, AND if Christ had existed, you would think the church would be trumpeting these to the heavens, not excising them from the record. What do you make of all this?

  39. John HarshmanJohn Harshman

    colewd:
    John Harshman,

    It is all evidence some pieces stronger than others.

    What? The fact that some people make a claim (b, some unknown fraction of a) is evidence that the claim is true?

    The case is not based on one piece of evidence but a lot of evidence.6 Months ago I did not think an analytical case could be made here but now I do.The book a Case of Christ by Lee Strobel was very convincing for a couple reasons.

    -He went in as an atheist determined to disprove Christianity.
    -He is a journalist with a law degree and works methodically.
    -He makes a strong case for the level of scholarship of Luke and John.
    -He makes a case based on all the evidence.

    The first two are ad hominem arguments. Do you consider that valid? The second two aren’t arguments at all, merely allusions to arguments that you say exist. What are the best arguments Strobel puts forth?

    I read the work of Bart Earlman who argues against Christ’s divinity but found his case weak as compared to Lee’s.

    Apparently you didn’t read it closely enough even to learn how to spell his name.

  40. colewd

    Robin,

    Here is the same claim in Acts:
    Acts 1:6-11English Standard Version (ESV)

    The Ascension
    6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

  41. Flint

    Robin: At best, he’s relating someone else’s testimony, but since the author doesn’t actually state such, it’s nothing more than hearsay.

    What’s particularly curious is that this is the only author in the bible to even relate the event.

    And here we should mention Bart Ehrman, who claims to be an atheist, but who insists Christ was real and his adventures are accurately related. And how does Ehrman know? Ah, because Mark derived most of his material from a document known as “Q”. Now, nobody has ever seen the Q document, but Mark must have based his work on something, right? People don’t just make things up, right?

    Now, if we compare Mark and Matthew, we find that nearly all of Matthew is found in Mark, but some is not. The part not found in Mark is called “M” (for Matthew), another document nobody has found. And of course, there was supposedly an “L” document, for material in Luke not found in either Mark or Matthew. Ehrman claims we “have” these documents, and cites them as documentary evidence! He even footnotes them and cites them!

    Now, Ehrman is a respected scholar who reads the original languages. If we don’t accept colewd’s evidence, how about Ehrman?

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