So You Say You’re an Atheist?

Time for a challenge. This one’s courtesy of Rev. Charles Blair, who has granted me permission to post this.

So you say you’re an atheist?
By Charles Blair

Well, I don’t believe you.

No, I’m not angry with you, and I don’t want to debate all the classical arguments for the existence of God; you’ve probably considered them all already and rejected them because of your own personal thoughts.

And no, I’m not going to use the familiar line “God doesn’t believe in atheists” as a premise here.

It’s just that you, as an educated person, should know the virtual impossibility of proving a negative, especially a universal negative. To claim to do so implies omniscience, and frankly, neither of us have that. We haven’t been everywhere in the material universe, nor have we explored the entire world of thought.

It’s as if one were to say, “There is no such thing as a leprechaun, or a unicorn.” To be sure, none of us have seen such creatures, but one documented sighting by an otherwise credible person would be enough to disprove such a sweeping universal negative. And one documented encounter with Deity from an otherwise credible person is sufficient to disprove the universal negative “There is no God.”

But there have been far more than one such encounter; millions of otherwise credible people, many of them the best people in their community in terms of human relations, the founders of hospitals, schools, mercy missions by the hundreds, the kind of good neighbors all of us love to have, all have claimed such “close encounters of the main kind.” Now, a claim to have seen a unicorn from someone on heavy narcotics wouldn’t impress me a great deal, and the fact that the Authorized Version of the Bible uses the word isn’t final evidence; checking the Hebrew results in another term (“wild ox” in some versions, though I still like the song where God tells Noah, “And don’t forget My unicorn.”) And an Irishman heavy into his celebration of St. Pat’s with the “drinkin’ of the green” might not be the most credible witness concerning the “little people.” But when you have multiplied thousands of witnesses, many of whom would be clinchers on the stand in any court case, over all 7 continents, over thousands of years, all with the same testimony, there is surely a presumption in favor of their words.

Which, of course, leads to the relatively small number of self-professed atheists, agnostics, and skeptics (a recent national “Atheist’s Convention” drew some 500, according to the news). More cautious thinkers prefer the terms “free-thinker” or “agnostic” and simply state, “I haven’t been able to find God,” and with Confucius may say, “We do not yet understand man; how then can we understand God? We do not yet understand this life; how then can we understand another?” Interestingly enough, this is precisely what at least three writers of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures also said.

Isaiah, in the last portion of that book (55:8-9) quotes God as saying, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” The writer of Psalm 139 states (in v. 6) “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.” And Paul, in Romans 11:33, concludes an in-depth discussion of God’s character with the doxology, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” Evidently these Bible writers believed that for man to search out God on his own was not to be expected, and that God to be known must choose to reveal Himself.

Thus the agnostic is correct in stating that he has not found God, but the real question may be, are we willing to be found by Him? As Augustine once said, as if it were God speaking: “Fear not, for thou would not seek Me if I had not found thee.”

My reason for writing this brief discussion is not to seek an argument, or to try to win a debate; it is intended to help honest doubters think their way through the most serious issue of life. If God exists, then all else is insignificant in comparison to that truth. If there is no God, then nothing else really matters; life is ultimately, in the poet’s words, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” One thinker wrote that he could not have the atheist’s humility, to consider life insignificant. As a believer in the One Creator and Sustainer of the universe, it is my prayer for you that this brief essay will help create in your mind a desire to enjoy that sense of meaning in life that can come in knowing the One Who is beyond knowledge. Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about these matters.

R. Charles Blair
pr.eprayer@ethixs.com

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28 Responses

  1. A random agnostic speaking, here: I don’t think it is possible to prove that God, or gods, do not exist. Proving that they do exist is a matter of them manifesting in some clearly divine manner, otherwise a working proof is not possible. At least I have not seen anything decisive to either direction.

    So, what should I believe? Maybe in God, Jesus and Holy Spirit/Ghost. Maybe in Allah. Maybe Buddha. Maybe one of the myriad animistic faiths. Maybe gnosticism. I, personally, see no reason to select any of them above the others (though Buddhism is one that I do feel a modicum of personal resonance towards; it makes a lot of sense).

    So, instead of making a blind decision with small propability of success, I am simply waiting. If a divinity bothers to make itself known to me, I’ll probably believe in it. If not, I can live just fine without believing in the divine.

    Without faith, life is exactly as meaningful as you make it yourself. For me, that is sufficient.

  2. Thanks for posting this, I just wrote a blog on a similar note… How we cannot expect to understand God’s ways.

    But to the non-believer, if you are not truly open and searching for the Truth, but simply put this feeling of yours in the back of your mind and bring it up only when directly addressed about your faith, then I doubt God will reveal Himself to you… it is our duty to search for God in Truth, only those who actually want to know God will find Him… why should God bother with people who in their hearts don’t really want to know the Truth? They have not decided that if they find God they will live their life in His will.

    The Bible tells us if we seek we will find… there’s God telling you exactly what you need to do to find Him, if you don’t seek, He will not reveal Himself to you as He has to so many others who truly wanted to know the Truth.

  3. I don’t know why this thing is linking to my blogger?
    The blog i mentioned is at: http://nemonotes.wordpress.com

  4. It’s just that you, as an educated person, should know the virtual impossibility of proving a negative, especially a universal negative. To claim to do so implies omniscience, and frankly, neither of us have that. We haven’t been everywhere in the material universe, nor have we explored the entire world of thought.

    This again? Do you guys have a handbook of bad arguments or something that you pass around?

    I can prove a negative right here – there are no square circles. Omniscience is not required to discard an incoherent concept, and “God” is the ultimate in incoherent concepts.

  5. nemo,
    Why should I seek the Christian God, as opposed to some other? I really don’t have time to get familiar with all the religions that exist.

    For me, in my current situation, it simply is not worth the trouble to internalise every religion, in order, in the meek hopes of some of them being right. Acting like I think a good person acts and seriously thinking about philosophy fulfill my spiritual needs. Why should I bother with more?

  6. Mek, can you prove that there are no “square circles” anywhere in any parallel universe? Our lack of experience does not prove a universal negative, nor does it prove that something beyond our capacity is necessarily incoherent; sometimes we are. (No, I don’et think there are either, but that’s no proof!)

    Tommi, glad you guys are thinking. This one is worth “the trouble to internalize” since it gives ultimate meaning to all of existence, as experienced by many people you would trust with your life. Read Descartes and Pascal, then C. S. Lewis if you’re up to a genuine challenge. Mine wasn’t intended as a “challenge,” just something that had been bubbling in my mind for a while. Wishing you His best – Charles – Romans 8:28

  7. My typing leaves something to be desired since my stroke; sorry about the typo I didn’t catch (don’t, not “don’et”).

  8. Mek, can you prove that there are no “square circles” anywhere in any parallel universe? Our lack of experience does not prove a universal negative, nor does it prove that something beyond our capacity is necessarily incoherent; sometimes we are. (No, I don’et think there are either, but that’s no proof!)

    1. Not that it should be necessary to say it, but we’re not in a parallel universe.
    2. Circles and squares are by definition antithetical; if they were defined otherwise, they would not be squares or circles. That being so, to argue that there even could be a square circle somewhere is incoherent and smacks of sophistry in an attempt to avoid being proved wrong.

  9. […] This diversion due to another discussion. […]

  10. There are no square circles. That’s as exact a proof as I care to write right now. Proving negatives is a matter of building a proof by contradiction (if the claim were true, something else that is clearly not true would also happen, and hence the claim must be false), almost always.
    I claim that mathemtics works in any alternate reality where reasoning works, and further that those are all the worlds that matter. If someone disagrees, I am willing to argue this point.

    That being out of the way, I appreciate Descartes. He was pretty smart philosopher, even if cartesian dualism is no longer all too credible, and achieved something in the area of math, too. Pascal likewise. Lewis’ Narnia books, which are very Christian fantasy, are something I will read some day.

    Christianity (and most other modern religions) does give meaning to life. I think. Well, to the extent they do not contradict free will, they do. I can, fortunately, forge meaning out of existence without religion. I can define such goals as self-improvement, being good, being happy, and making all of those true to the people near me. This way, my life matters to me, and that is enough.

    For the record, I am genuinely enjoying the discussion. It is a rare situation that allows me to talk with a sensible religious person about these things, and in a civil way. Thanks.

  11. Hi, tommi.

    Man, you guys are posting comments much faster than I anticipated. I just posted this yesterday. Thanks very much for visiting and for posting!

    Anyway, you said:

    Proving that they do exist is a matter of them manifesting in some clearly divine manner, otherwise a working proof is not possible. At least I have not seen anything decisive to either direction.

    We Christians believe that God did manifest himself in human form about 2000 years ago. He did this through a person named (in English) Jesus Christ, who has been proven to be a person who actually existed in history. According to the writings of his followers, he claimed many times to be God. Now, as to whether that claim is true or not, THAT, I think, is the question.

    I will try to tackle that in my next post. Please bear with me. I am used to posting every other day or every three days (there was even a time when I didn’t post anything new for eight days!). Thanks very much for your patience and understanding.

    As Arnie the Terminator says, “I’ll be back” 8-).

    God’s grace and peace to you!

    Mel

  12. who has been proven to be a person who actually existed in history.

    Uh, no. Not actually true.

    According to the writings of his followers, he claimed many times to be God.

    Except he didn’t. He did at one point claim that “the Father and I are one”, which is commonly and incorrectly taken to be a claim of divinity; it was actually an idiomatic expression meaning, as close as can be translated, one in purpose. The other alleged claims of godhood that people attach to the character are claims of being a messiah, a term attached to various people by the Jews throughout history (for example, Cyrus of Persia was called a messiah); this only works if one assumes, against contemporary Jewish context, that messiah refers to a divine entity, rather than someone appointed by God. Similarly, the use of the term “Son of Man” refers to another idiomatic Semitic expression; in this case, it refers to a human being in the abstract, as a reflection of humanity. The use in Daniel led to the conceptual Son of Man, a term in Judaism referring to a figure of the tikkum olum period of the Messiah. Also, the term “Son of God” is yet another misused phrase; it abounds throughout pre-Christian Judaism in various contexts, but the most likely and contextually-consistent interpretation in light of 1stC Palestine is that it refers again to the Messiah as the promised King of Israel; the title was, after all, given to Kings of Israel as a symbol of their leadership of God’s Chosen People; another interesting corrolary is the use of a similar term for the nation of Israel, and it is most likely that “Son of God” is a metaphorical term, used to denote leadership of Israel during the prophesied Messianic Age, with connotations of appointment by God.

  13. Hi, mek.

    Man, you’re fast! Just sneaked a peek into my blog to see the stats, and I found out I had one more comment on my most famous post so far (and it’s not even mine—it’s just a post of an essay from Rev. Blair, who very kindly granted me permission to use it here).

    Anyway, I’m writing now to ask you to please bear with my slowness in posting. I didn’t expect that any of my posts would be met with these many comments coming at this pace. But I hope I’ll be able to pick up the pace in time.

    I’ll actually be addressing some of the issues which you have already questioned in your comment. Aha! I’m sure that means you’ll be reading THAT next post 8-D. At least that means that it’ll already be sure of being read by someone other than myself.

    Peace! As I said before, “I’ll be back” 8-).

    Mel

  14. Heh. Ironically, a lot of that is drawn from what I was taught in school; all British schools are required to teach some Religious Education, but mine was specifically Broad Church Anglican, although of course never stated to be so.

    I look forward to reading your response. 🙂

  15. As a mathematician and a Christian wanted to jump in here a moment on your discussion.

    First circles and squares are definitions and thereby not provable. In math we make definition statements often of observable events that are accepted as true as basic axioms. Circles and squares are defined and in basic geometry are separate entities. BUT, if you move into topology, the are equal. As in both are figures that you can lay your pencil on and travel completely around and never pick your pencil up. They are a continuous line or loop, the shape makes no difference. Therefore, there is no difference in a circle and sqare, they are equal. Again, it comes from perspective, how you define what you are speaking of.

    Another example, parrallel lines do not intersect, but they can. Have you ever stood on a rail road track on a long flat piece of land? They appear to cross at the horizon. There is an entire branch of geometry that allows parrallel lines to cross and has many real world applications, for example the ability to draw digital pictures that appear to have depth to them. (Simplifying to lay man’s terms)

    On the existence of God, you will never prove him, as he is THE axiom. The one accepted truth that all the universe is built upon. The problem is, when you refuse to accept the axiom then all arguments end in a cotradiction. You will look to find an explanation for all that happens and it will not be there, as God is the explanation and you refuse to accept him.

    I pray you continue to search and that someday you are able to accept with faith that Jesus is real and did come to pay sins debt for you. For those of us who do believe it is quite logical and all other arguments fail to satisfy.

    God bless

    Tina

  16. Hi, guys – Busy today (It’s my day of work!) Will get back tomorro Deo Volente. Glad for the discussion. Charles – Rom. 8:28

  17. Oh, please. That’s just begging the question and playing the redefinition game.

    As for the little screed on “god”, I can say that the same thing applies with Thor, and that Baldr died for your sins. And things are not logical or illogical based on perspective; logic is a binary system.

  18. Sorry, Charles. Not directed at you.

  19. Certainly we are not in some other “parallel universe,” but that makes my point; God is. And our most thorough logic applies specifically to our time-space-matter/energy continuum; whether that is a matter of perspective may be a matter of perspective! Disclaimer here; I am not a scientist. But the last I heard (I don’t try to keep up with everything) the debate between Max Planck’s Quantum Theory of light and Einstein’s Wave Theory remained unsettled. I was taught in physics (in 1951) that if one is true, the other is false, and vice versa, yet both are essential to explain the actual behavior of light. Maybe I’ve missed the great reconciliation, but somehow I think it would have made some of the papers and magazines I read. So if we are able to allow logical contradiction for the sake of explanation in this field, possibly that could be true in some other area, especially in some other dimension of existence we don’t understand.

    Re “Did Jesus claim to be God?” The Pharisees certainly understood Him to do so. Even a casual reading of the Fourth Gospel makes that clear. If someone is about to stone me over a misunderstanding, that is certainly the time to clear it up. Also, He accepted worship. (Sorry, Mek, I can’t keep from using the capital for Deity; hope it isn’t too offfensive to you, but it would greatly offend me not to.)
    As Lewis says, He is either a lunatic, of the sort who considers himself a mashed potato (what a metaphor!), a liar, or Lord – nothing in between. A good man would not accept worship; surely a liar would not long evoke it. (Some Tv evangelists to the contrary nonwithstanding. They don’t last long.) When Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus did not rebuke or correct him.

    As Hume said, iin the conclusion to his work on miracles, “So we may conclude that not only was the Christian faith established with miracles, but also that it cannot be believed today without one.” I concur; the experience we call the new birth is a miracle from another dimension, which makes faith possible.

    If I’ve missed something from the posts above, or if I’ve missed some of my typos, apologies; it’s been a full day, but this is so interesting to me I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to take a quick look and “shoot from the lip” with a possibly too hasty answer. Like Tommi, I’m enjoying a courteous discussion; they are few and far between, and well worth the time invested. Thanks, Tina and Nemo, for pitching in – it would be great if a few other thoughtful folks wanted to
    join, from any of the varied sides of the discussion.

    Almost forgot; one place you might want to start a reading list is Voltaire’s “The Sage and the Atheist.” (HInt- the Deist wins.) Then on to Descartes, Pascal, probably Kierkegaard (I recommend “Fear and Trambling”), then Lewis, and then some early Henry Morris, like “Studies in the Bible and Science,” and then Michael Behe, “Darwin’s Black Box.” Narnia is fun, but the primary intellectual exercise there is uncovering the Christian application. I actually had a college prof say Tolliken was not a Christian writer! Some folks have trouble with symbolism, it seems. Well, “mego” so “to bed I go.” Keep wrestling with the angel; I just hope you don’t wrestle so long you limp away. Charles – Ro.8:28

  20. The theological argument aside, the manifestation that is called Jesus was clearly not explicit enough, even if it was true, as a significant number of people don’t believe in many of those miracles.

    So, Hume said that to adopt Christian faith one would have to see a miracle. That looks to be about right. I have not had the opportunity to ask why the really religious people are that way (due to the fact that religion is a highly private matter hereabouts), but I presume that personal experience is a significant factor.

    On reading lists; Kant is of interest, due to being the subject of my current ethics course, having at least the attempts of logical proofs in his writing, and generally having good ideas. He evidently first assumed moral and then postulated God and eternal soul, or something to that effect. We have not made it that far yet.

    (Narnia is a priority mainly due to me being a fantasy enthusiast.) I’ll keep the suggestions in mind when checking out the local library the next time.

    I do have some thoughts about omnipotence, logic, parallel worlds and so on, but they are not very structured yet.

  21. Enjoyed Kant in college, but haven’t opened since – lots of things to read, but my Bible is my first priority. You’ll enjoy Narnia. You’re right that a personal relationship with the One Creator and Sustainer of the universe (not “polyverse”, therefore One Source) is the key , not a lot of logical debate, as stimulating as that is. Formal religion can mislead, as history attests; Tennyson said, and I agree, “There exists more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds.”
    Don’t ever expect everyone to agree on anything! (MIracles, Jesus, or the weather!) Wishing you His best – Charles – Ro. 8:28

  22. I’m back!

    Had to do some business first, try to put some food on the table.

    Speaking of which, to any one reading this who happens to live in the Philippines, may I shamelessly announce 🙂 that I’m retailing computer supplies such as flashdrives, hard disks, notebook and desktop computers, optical writers, blank CD’s and DVD’s, etc. If anyone’s interested, please drop me a note at my “About Blog and Blogger” page (where I also shamelessly mentioned my business).

    Anyway, that’s one of my main preoccupations as Dayworker. But now I’m back as Nightblogger, and, as promised, I’ve got a new post. Can’t post as much and as often as I want, but I’ll keep ’em coming if you’ll keep on responding (actually, even if not 🙂 ).

    So…please check out my new post, where I BEGIN to address some points which Mek raised earlier. Actually, I had already been planning to write these series of posts and would have written them anyway even if nobody had responded to this present post, but hey! you guys make my day! Thanks very much for your comments.

    God bless you!

    Mel

  23. Tacitus, Annales, xv.44, written in AD (where did that come from?!) 64 under Nero. To get rid of the rumor that Nero started the fire, “Nero set up as the culprits and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty a class hated for their abominations, who are commonly called Christians. Christus, from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.”

    Seutonius, “Vita Claudii,” xxv. 4: “Since the Jews were continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome.”
    (Mentioned in Acts 18:2)

    Also see the correspondence between Pliny (the Younger) and Emperor Trajan, found (as are the above quotes) in Bettenson’s “Documents of the Christian Church”, Oxford Press, 1943, 1963. He does not reference the disputed passages in Josephus, or the apocryphal stuff that floated around later, only the best documented materials. There is ample evidence of Christians in the 1st Century; whence came they? Did they spring full-grown from the head of a deity? Or are the gospel accounts accurate history? Also recommended, the writings of Sir William Ramsay, who began his archeological work about a century ago to prove the BIble wrong, adn ended up being called a “fundamentalist,” a label he rejected. More recently, Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” and “More Evidence . . .” The debate over trhe “historical Jesus” is pretty well over. The isue of deity is, of course, a separate matter.

    Keep ’em comin’, guys! Charles – Have a great forever!

  24. Alister McGrath has a new book, The Dawkins Delusion, his critique of “The God Delusion” by Dr. Richard Dawkins, a well-known “fundamentalist atheist” (one who is “evangelical” in his atheism)

    Before he earned a doctorate in theology, McGrath finished a doctorate in molecular biophysics! Both from Oxford.

    (merong kopya ang ATS Library ng The Dawkins Delusion)

  25. Hi, Atty!

    Thanks! I’ll check out that book.

    God bless!

    Mel

  26. Maybe I’ve missed the great reconciliation, but somehow I think it would have made some of the papers and magazines I read.

    Wave-particle duality’s been around a while now, since the 1920s; it’s pretty well-attested by quantum mechanics, itself one of the most well-evidenced areas of modern science. Basically, all objects display wave and particle properties; we don’t see that in larger objects because their frequencies are too low.

    He is either a lunatic, of the sort who considers himself a mashed potato (what a metaphor!), a liar, or Lord – nothing in between.

    That’s a false trilemma, and it begs the question.

    Tacitus, Annales, xv.44, written in AD (where did that come from?!) 64 under Nero.

    Tacitus actually wrote about Nero in about 115CE. The reliability of this passage is dubious. There is no other corroborating evidence that Nero persecuted the Christians – he was indifferent to the religions in Rome – nor would there have been a multitude of Christians in Rome at that time. ‘Christian’ was not a common term in the first century. Tacitus does not use the name Jesus and yet assumes that his readers know of Pontius Pilate. There is also no corroborating evidence which suggests that Nero started the fire in Rome, either.

    It’s possible that the passage is genuine; whether the information it contains is genuine is another matter. Tacitus was not above spreading false rumours to illustrate a moral point, as when he asserted that the Emperor Augustus was murdered by his wife Livia in order to illustrate a point about the moral vices of Nero.

    Tacitus was also contemptuous of almost all Easterners – he would not have spent as much time or energy researching Christians as he would have on researching court intrigues, and such things. It’s just as probable that Tacitus is simply mentioning what other people have said to him and asserted to be the truth. Either way, Tacitus is not a viable historical source.

    Seutonius, “Vita Claudii,” xxv. 4: “Since the Jews were continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome.”

    Close, but no cylindrical smoking thing.

    Chrestus is not Christ. It is, however, a Greek proper name. Suetonius also knew the difference between Jews and Christians – he refers in other works to Christians without the misspelling and without the reference to the Jews; he seems to regard them as being unrelated.

    Also see the correspondence between Pliny (the Younger) and Emperor Trajan, found (as are the above quotes) in Bettenson’s “Documents of the Christian Church”, Oxford Press, 1943, 1963.

    Pliny, as governor of Bythinia, wrote to Trajan in around 112CE or so. He basically states that some Christians died for their beliefs when tortured before trial. To cut a long story short, Pliny contributes nothing at all to the issue at hand; he was too late and too far away.

    The fact that Pliny mentions Christians mentioning Jesus does not prove historicity of Jesus; it proves that someone mentioned him.

    whence came they? Did they spring full-grown from the head of a deity?

    That’s not an argument for historicity; and if it were, you’d be SOL because the same would apply to Thor, Mithras and Zeus.

    Or are the gospel accounts accurate history? Also recommended, the writings of Sir William Ramsay, who began his archeological work about a century ago to prove the BIble wrong, adn ended up being called a “fundamentalist,” a label he rejected.

    Given his background as a student of Lit. Hum with its emphasis on Platonism, there’s no surprise there; and it seem doubtful that he actually set out to prove the Bible wrong. I certainly can’t find any biographical evidence to that effect.

    More recently, Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” and “More Evidence . . .” The debate over trhe “historical Jesus” is pretty well over.

    Only if you ignore the absence of evidence. Josh McDowell is, bluntly, a hack, and shouldn’t be confused with any kind of historian.

  27. In short, as with some “Christian apologists,” if I don’t agree with it it’s patently false.

    Agreed that Tacitus wrote early 2nd Cent.; point of reference was 64. He wan’t the only Roman contemptuous of anything from Coele-Syria and the general neighborhood; it is as if a new “Messiah” sprang up in northern Idaho with a dozen followers today. Would the NYTimes and/or Wash. Post give it the time of day? Only if it became sensational, like Jones and Koresh. Don’t expect denizens of Rome to notice the colonies for anything but taxes., or to keep down riots.

    But the theory that most of NT was 2nd Cent. and therefore not reliable doesn’t fit with the Ante-Nicenes; they had most of our canon and considered it different from 2nd-cent. writings. While they argued over a few books, the 4 accounts we have of the life of Jesus, and the Acts, were considered as accurate history and those we consider apocryphal were not. Thus we have several contemporaneous documents from friendly sources, writing against the backdrop of official repression; how many have been willing to be martyred for Thor, or Zeus? The notion that Rome did not persecute Christians is absurd – the weakest point I’ve heard from you. Of course they persecuted any unlicensed religion, as will always happen with a state religious establishment – why Jefferson opposed that so strongly (as do I). Judiasm was a religio licta; Claudius would not have expelled Jews as such, for their leaders were officially willing to offer a pinch of incence on Caesar’s altar with their fingers crossed. The sort of riots described in Acts were over an unlicensed religious issue where many of those involved were Jews “instigated by Chrestus,” a simple spelling difference like “Silas” and “Sylvanius” or “Timothy”” and “Timotheus” (largely case-ending issues and vowel substitution by sound).

    Ramsay’s own statement was that he set out to prove his teachers correct and the Bible in error. (Sorry, I don’t have the ref handy on that, but that’s almost a direct quote from memory, as I recall from “Paul the Traveler in the Roman Empire” which i do not own. Can’t have everything! doggone it!).

    Enjoying the friendly, intelligent discussion; Thanks to Mel for hosting the site. Best – Charles – Ro.8:28

  28. Charles: Sorry for the delay on replying. I’ve been having a very hectic time at work, but I will get back you when next able to.

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