Jason Gastrich interviews Dan Barker
The following is an interview conducted by Jason Gastrich on his Christian radio show in San Diego, California, in November 2002, done by telephone hookup. The transcription was made by "Grinder," a listener to the show. Listen to the show in .mp3 format.
Jason: All right, how are you doing Dan?
Dan: Just fine, thanks for the call.
Jason: Good. Well I really appreciate the chance to talk with you and discuss some things. I'm looking forward to just hearing about your testimony, and your book, and asking you some questions about creation and prophecy, and uh, just hearing what you have to say.
Dan: Well good.
Jason: All right. Well, let's start off by . . . I really am interested in hearing about your book, why you wrote it and what it's about. So, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Dan: Well, the book is called Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. It's a 1992 book, and it tells the story of my deconversion from fundamentalist evangelical Christian minister to an atheist. I preached the gospel for nineteen years. I was . . . I started preaching in high school, that's why it stretched out so long. And I started soul-winning in high school, carrying my Bible to school, and preaching in parks and churches, and playing the piano, you know. There's all these opportunities in Southern California for ministry, back in the 60s and 70s.
Jason: Oh yeah.
Dan: I was a missionary to Mexico for two years, as an evangelical missionary. I was an associate minister in three different California churches: Friend's Church, Assembly of God, and then an interdenominational Christian church. And I was a cross-country evangelist, living by faith--no real income, no address even, all our stuff was in storage. I traveled from church to church, preaching the gospel.
Dan: And only living by love offerings [and] that kind of thing. And then I became a Christian songwriter. A Christian publisher named Manna Music took one of my musicals and published it. And it became, for them, a bestseller for a while. And I had a couple of sequels. I started getting invited to do a lot of ministry as, like a guest composer, a guest conductor of music ministry. So I traveled the country in all sorts of churches, preaching and singing and spreading the gospel, mainly as a soul-winner, you know.
Dan: I viewed myself as a soldier in the army of Christ on the front lines. Come what may, I thought the world was going to end soon, and Jesus was returning soon, and that we needed to get people born again, confess their sins, and accept Jesus into their heart as their personal savior, and all of that. And, you know, the Bible says, "by their fruits you shall know them," and my ministry exhibited all of those fruits of the spirit. Of course I was humble enough to say that it wasn't me, that it was the Holy Spirit that was doing it. By you know, you can evaluate a person's ministry based on factors like that . . . in their sincerity. I was sincere. I believed. I was not a phony. I lived the Christian life. I was a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. I preached from every book of the Bible over many years. I translated much of the New Testament from the Greek. I'm not a great Greek scholar, but I can read it in the Greek with a good lexicon.
Jason: Ok . . .
Dan: So, I know a lot about Christianity.
Jason: Uh-huh. So your book is basically a testimony of your past and your deconversion?
Dan: Yeah, and then why I changed my mind, and why I'm doing what I'm doing today. And then, about half of the book is also some analysis, some investigations of the Bible: the discrepancies, some problems in apologetics, and that kind of thing.
Jason: So what, did you ever go to a Bible school or college?
Dan: Yes, I went to Azusa Pacific University for four years. I got a degree in Religion.
Jason: Oh, ok.
Dan: And that's where I . . .
Jason: Yeah I'm familiar with Azusa.
Dan: It was called "Azusa Pacific College" back then, but then when I got my degree it was a "University."
Dan: We had a good cross-section of, you know . . . A Bible college isn't necessarily known for its scholarship, but it was a good Bible college, . . .
Dan: . . . a Christian liberal arts university. You know, a little bit of apologetics and Christian evidences, and that's were I took those years of Greek study--it was New Testament Greek, not classical Greek. And then I was ordained to the ministry by a church in central California.
Jason: Which one was that?
Dan: At the time it was called Standard Community Christian Center. It was originally part of the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ, but they became [an] independent charismatic church, if you know what that is.
Jason: I know charismatic. I can imagine what independent is I guess.
Dan: Well, because the church didn't toe the denominational line, they decided to break off and become their own--and that happens all the time. You can't name a church in Christianity that isn't a split off of something, somewhere. That's just a part of the healthy part of the Christian experience.
Jason: Yeah. But usually also the differences can be very small, as far as like sprinkling or immersion for baptism, or just issues like that.
Dan: Well I know a guy--he's also a former Church of Christ minister, Farrell Till--he said the Church of Christ had a split over whether or not the communion cup should have a handle.
Jason: Oh wow.
Dan: They really did. And, I mean, people who believe the Bible really seriously, they'll . . . It's got to be literal or not, and they're not going to fellowship with other Christians who don't have the exact . . .
Dan: It's a kind of intolerance that all religions have, not just Christianity. Whenever you think you have the one true way, there's this kind of . . .
Jason: Well it's interesting that God does give us the liberty to decide on these little matters and not kill each other all in the same specific camp, but kind of have our own churches where people can worship and . . .
Dan: You know it's interesting that all of these churches--what are there, twelve hundred denominations in the United States?--they all will claim that God has given to them the correct interpretation, and all the others are a little bit off in some way. And as you've pointed out, there's been a lot of intolerance and wars fought over this. Each one of them will open the Bible and prove to you with their Bible, if they interpret it their way, that they are right. And they can all do that.
Jason: I know that would seemingly be something that would go to the side of an atheist to show, hey if there's twelve hundred interpretations and there's one God, one Holy Spirit, where's the rub? How can this be? I guess from a Christian perspective, they would say, since the Fall and since sin came into the world, the Devil and the powers of darkness, such as demons and things, do tempt and cloud vision and, you know, destroy the truth . . .
Dan: Yeah, everyone's vision but yours. Right?
Jason: (Laughs.) Well, I guess everyone's vision but God's.
Dan: Yeah, but everyone says they have God's, right? They all say it.
Jason: Yeah, I can't say that I'm perfect and everything that I know is perfect, but I think what we're talking about here is nonessentials. The essential things of salvation are agreed upon by the vast majority of the denominations. That's Christ [as] deity, dying on the cross for our sins, the nature of God, the essentials for salvation.
Dan: Well you're describing the essentials for evangelical churches. There are a lot of middle or liberal churches that don't bind to those essentials. But yeah, you're describing a kind of evangelical fundamentalist. Because you would be critical of liberal Christians probably, who would say that a . . . The . . . Unification--not the Unificationists, the Universalists--who think there is no Hell and that we're all going to be saved. You're obviously going to have to draw your line somewhere. And everybody thinks they're drawing the line in the right place. I used to think it. I used to think all these other people had this proclivity to error, to being deceived in some way, but not me. Not me, of course. I'm a part of the same human race that they are, but somehow I was blessed. I was special. I was somehow a little bit above all these other wrong-headed Christians. Or else I was lucky enough to be born into the right family.
Jason: Well the core message of the Bible I think could probably be understood by a first grader, second grader, it's really not that difficult to see the plan that God has laid out for us in the Bible.
Dan: I don't know, I wouldn't want to show it to my first grader. I mean, it's a pretty ugly book when you look at it, and it's a real demeaning book to human nature. . . . [Crosstalk] . . . And the whole concept of salvation, the whole idea that there needs to be a salvation, is a real insult to humanity. In other words, we are all deserving of damnation. We're no good. We can't think. We can't figure it out. We all have to bow like humble slaves before this master who tells us what is right and wrong, who has expressed his grace to us. How lucky we are that he has died and given his free gift to us, so that we can avoid this punishment that we all deserve. Now that really is an ultimate insult that cuts to the core of what it means to be human, and it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You raise kids to think that, "Oh, I'm a sinner, I might go to Hell," that's horrible. And "I'm no good, I need to surrender." Well I mean, a lot of people grow up with this attitude that they are no good, and that they are sinners, and they act it out.
Jason: Uh-huh. Well I see what you're saying, and I think it's interesting. Everything comes back to sin, and how--I don't know, of course you wouldn't believe in the Original Sin--but how that has permeated things to the point where we need God's help, and we need his salvation . . .
Dan: What do you mean, "sin"? What is sin?
Jason: Well, sin [you see] can mean different things to different people, but sin is basically violating God's laws. Or, for argument's sake, we could call sin, you know, murder, rape, bestiality, and we can name a few sins just to say, ok these are things that are wrong.
Dan: Is it a sin to do work on a Sabbath? God's law clearly says that anybody who does work on the Sabbath should be put to death. Is that a sin?
Jason: Well that scripture was a specific law for . . . You see when you read the Bible you obviously need to take it into context. Who is it talking to? Why is it saying what it's saying? I think you're quoting Old Testament law that was given to the Jews, is that right?
Dan: It's in . . . it's the Ten Commandments! "Honor [Remember] the sabbath day to keep it holy." The Sabbath day [rule] is part of the Ten Commandments that almost every Christian church views as core to Christian theology.
Jason: Ok, I believe it is important to take off a day during the week to rest, but interestingly that is the one commandment that was not repeated in the New Testament. Did you know that?
Dan: Well ok, so then you're throwing out part of the Old Testament. Christians feel free to pick and choose what they like and don't, right?
Jason: No, no, no. I'm not throwing out anything, but some of the Bible is historical narrative, some of it is poetry, some of it is theology, and the section you just grabbed, I believe, was a section that was a law for the Jews.
Dan: Well, all of the Ten Commandments were laws for the Jews, so . . .
Dan: So what I'm trying to say is, if a sin is violating God's law, then a sin can be anything, even if humanity thinks it's something good.
Dan: This religion declares that their god says it's something wrong, then it's a sin. So then it's a relative thing. It's a circular argument. I think there's no such thing as sin.
Dan: There are actions that some human beings, who are not completely healthy, might commit that cause unnecessary harm. And so we have systems of justice, and we might call them crimes, and which we have a prison system to protect ourselves. But to call it "sin" is to strike at the core of what it means to be a human being, and it is a deep insult to humanity. There's no such thing as sin, and we don't need salvation.
Jason: Well "sin" is in the dictionary. It's a term as used by millions of people.
Dan: Yeah, so is the word "ghost." I mean, there's a lot of words that people use, but that doesn't mean that it points to a reality.
Jason: Ok. Well, "ghost" is a word that, you know, we can read a dictionary definition of "ghost" and I'm sure it would say something to the effect of supernatural . . . It could be an imagined, but sin is more of a concrete definition of a trespass, or a wrongdoing. But you don't have to admit that sin exists. What your definition of sin shows that something exists that is wrong.
Dan: I don't define "sin." I throw the word out. We don't even need it. We do have a . . . we can, as secular human beings, can describe morality and ethics based on what our human needs are, and not have to make it some kind of a religious thing. In fact, millions of good Americans live really good, charitable, happy, meaningful lives without this concept of "sin" and "salvation." But they are good people because they respect humanity, and other life on this planet, by trying to avoid unnecessary harm. Calling it a "sin" makes [it] into something above our experience. It makes it something non-human, and therefore very dangerous.
Jason: Don't you think that it makes things kind of subjective if we don't have a non-subjective authority, a supernatural authority from outside our time-space dimension?
Dan: That's the only way to be moral. In fact, making it non-subjective or absolute is very very dangerous. If there is, supposedly, this absolute morality--these principles that have to be absolutely followed that were decreed by this god--then why is it that there are no two Bible-believing . . . Why is it that there are no two issues on which Bible-believing Christians agree? Take any crucial social issue of the day: abortion rights, the death penalty, or doctor-assisted suicide, or gay rights, you name it. You go down through a dozen very important things, you'll find good Christians who pray, who go to church, who read the Bible, who seek God's guidance [and] you will find them falling on different sides of those issues. There is no clear absolute moral statement within the body of Christ, which is one of the evidences that the Christian morality really is nonexistent. It still boils down to your subjective feeling of what you think about abortion, or what you think about gay rights. There's no verse in the Bible that says "Thou shall not commit abortion." It's Christians themselves making a subjective decision [about] what they think the Bible ought to be saying.
Jason: Well, when you say . . . We need to differentiate between morality and what the Bible says because there's always going to be immorality in the world. Just because someone believes in God or reads the Bible, it doesn't necessarily make them a moral person just by reading. But, as far as abortion is concerned there's many many scriptures, and I have some of those on my website at jcsm.org, and I talk about God is a creator of life. He forms us in the womb. He's a giver and taker of life. And those would go to show things about abortion, and even about suicide as also.
Dan: Well sure, you can always find verses in the Bible to support your opinion. There are Christians on the other side, and you know it. There are good Christians on the other side who support abortion rights, and they take the Bible and they look at other verses, and they interpret it in another way. I mean some of them point out that the Bible is very anti-child. That verse in Psalms where God said you should be happy to take the little children and dash them against the stones [Psalm 137:9], which is very anti-life. There's all sorts of disrespect . . .
Jason: Do you know what context that was in?
Dan: Yeah, that was Psalm 137, verse 9. That's where the Babylonians are supposed to be put down, and the followers of God should be happy to take the "little ones," the little children--which you have to agree those children are innocent--to be "happy" to take them and dash them against the stones. It doesn't say that you should regrettably do it. It says you should be "happy," or "blessed" to take the children of these infidel Babylonians and dash them against the rocks. You can go through the entire Bible and find all sorts of horrible disrespect for human life, for people who were supposedly worshipping the "wrong" religion. They didn't follow the Jews' pet religion, and so they should be exterminated, killed, wiped out--oh except you can save the young virgin girls for yourself. The Bible says in Numbers , save the young virgin girls and divide them up as part of the war booty. They even called it war booty. Kill all of the women that have known men, kill all of the men and boys, but save the young virgins for yourself as a part of the prize [Numbers 31:35], and thirty-two of the virgins go to the priests [Numbers 31:40]. It really is a brutal book, and the God of that book is not somebody I would respect very much if he had lived in my country.
Jason: Well there's a couple of reasons why, in the Old Testament, God did deliver enemies into the Israelites' hands. The first battle that the Israelites fought, they were attacked by coming through another person's land. And furthermore, there's two big reasons why God wanted their line to remain pure, why he didn't want them to interbreed with the other people, and why he plainly said, destroy these people, every one of them. One reason is because Jesus was supposed to come through the bloodline there, and the bigger reason is that the Nephelim, which were the fallen angels, had come down and had sex with the women, which you can see in Genesis 6, and you can see later, and they produced this demonic, hybrid offspring. And now that's why God destroyed the Earth with the flood, because they had all this demonic offspring. And when God is saying in the Old Testament, destroy this whole entire people, you have to understand that these people were contaminated. That's why they said that Noah's line was pure. Noah had not intermingled with these demons. We can see the demons doing it again because we see giants in the Old Testament again, like with Goliath and stuff--he was a Nephelim offspring. I'm sure you've studied that word, right?
Dan: Yeah, I know what that is. "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair . . ." [Genesis 6:2] I know that, and . . . But Jason, are you telling me this with a straight face? I mean do you really sincerely believe this stuff about the angels coming down and having sex with human beings? [Crosstalk.] That was a, that's a myth. I mean that's part of the Bible that is legendary and mythical. You don't really believed that happened, do you?
Jason: Well it's compounded again in Jude, and yes, absolutely . . .
Dan: You do. You actually believe that some angelic creatures came down from Heaven and . . .? I mean, this is the twenty-first century, Jason. You're an adult. You're talking about devils and angels and demons and . . . Think about what you're saying and how ludicrous this appears to an intelligent person. That stuff did not happen. Those are myths that the Israelites made up to try to explain, in their own bumbling way, what the origin of the world was like. Besides that, the fallacy of your argument: if the race was purified at Noah, the verse I just quoted to you came after Noah, the Babylonians. And the race that supposedly produced Jesus never was pure. In fact, your argument amounts to racism. You shouldn't interbreed with these other races. We should have one pure high Aryan race, or whatever you want to call race, Jewish race, which is despicable. Who would have any honor to hold such a book under their arm?
Jason: Uh-huh. Well, I think you really have to live in a box to not see any supernatural activity in the world today. Which is predominantly an atheistic viewpoint that there's nothing supernatural.
Dan: For example?
Jason: You have demon possessed people, you have psychic readers, [Crosstalk.] you have people calling people from the dead. You have all kinds of supernatural things in the world.
Dan: When has that been proved or confirmed? I mean if those things really happen, Jason, if you are right, every scientist, every medical person in the world would jump at a chance to prove . . . You could win the Nobel Prize if you discovered a hitherto unknown force in the universe. Anyone and everyone with even the smallest amount of intelligence would be jumping on that to prove it. To show what science and the world is really like. But you should know, just as much as I do, that none of those anecdotes have ever been confirmed. As soon as you scratch under the surface, you find exaggerations or outright fraud, or misinterpretations of natural events. You don't find supernatural miracles. And if you do find one, Jason, you should win the Nobel Prize for proving it to the world.
Jason: Well, I don't think . . . There's a couple reasons why I think that's a little flawed. One is I don't think there's Christians that are really trying to win the Nobel Prize. And two, I think that a lot of times scientists aren't present when miracles are done, when demons are cast out.
Dan: How convenient. They just don't happen to be there to see it.
Dan: Doesn't the Bible tell you . . .
Jason: These people aren't there to see a lot of things that they still believe. I mean, even atheists have some faith in some things that they haven't seen, haven't proven. They haven't met Einstein, they haven't met Caesar, you know, they still believe in these people, these things.
Dan: Yeah, but when an atheist likes me says that I accept this historical existence of Einstein, I'm saying it conditionally. I'm not saying it's the absolute truth. I'm saying I might be wrong. I'm not standing and proclaiming that my belief in the existence of Shakespeare is somehow absolute truth. I'd be happy for you to prove me wrong. I'm just saying, contingently, based upon what we happen to know, and based on our pretty proven methods of history, we can say with a "high" degree of certainty that these people existed. That's quite different from religious faith that claims 100% absolute certainty
Dan: When the whole idea of faith itself implies doubt.
Jason: Hmm. Well, I think it's the faith that comes from reading, from reading the Word.
Dan: I've read "the Word," as much as you have.
Jason: I don't doubt that you have. Um, do you think that it takes blind faith, or would you call it, I like to call it, "informed faith," because I don't feel like I just have a blind, empty faith. I feel like my faith is based on the concepts in God's Word.
Dan: But why faith in the first place? I mean, what good is the concept? Why even put that word out in front of you to say we should have "blind faith" or "informed faith"? Why not just say, "Use your mind," and use your free mind to examine and decide for yourself whether you think this is true or false? What does faith have . . . like when you use the word "faith," you're admitting that the assertions you are accepting by faith cannot be accepted on their own merits. You need something extra. You need something above and beyond the evidence to make it true. Anytime someone uses the word "faith," its a cop out. They're admitting defeat. Faith is a kind of agnosticism because if you knew it was true, you wouldn't need faith.
Jason: Hmm. Well these are real humanistic principles: There is no sin, you do not need to have faith. That's really the antithesis of what God's Word is saying.
Dan: Exactly. [Crosstalk.] Exactly, and I'm proud of that. I mean, that a good thing is what I'm saying.
Jason: Yeah, and you're free to accept that view but it's . . . I just feel that there's so much compelling evidence to the contrary that . . .
Dan: For example?
Jason: Well, you called them "bumbling" Jews and stuff, but these "bumbling" Jews had these prophesies in the Old Testament that have been fulfilled that really I would like to know what you think about them.
Dan: Well give me one example then.
Jason: Oh, ok, there's over sixty messianic prophesies
Dan: Well give me one.
Jason: One of them? Ok, how about, uh, Genesis 17:19, where . . . See what God did is, he continually told the Jews where Jesus was going to come from. And he would narrow down the bloodline, narrow narrow narrow narrow, to say ok, it's going to come to the tribe of Jesse, the tribe of David, Jacob, et cetera et cetera et cetera. In the New Testament, we see his lineage, and that's exactly where he came from. Numbers 24:17 . . .
Dan: Wait, wait a minute, I'm reading Genesis 17:19 right now.
Jason: Ok, ok.
Dan: God said, no, but "your wife Sarah shall bear you a son and you shall name him Isaac."
Dan: "I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him."
Dan: Where does that say anything about Jesus or the messiah? Where does that say anything at all about Christianity? This is a covenant between God and . . . This is a covenant that these religious people wrote between their God and themselves, right? Where's this "messiah" and "Jesus dying on the cross"? Why is that a prophecy?
Jason: Ok. Well if you want to see more about the cross and the messiah . . .
Dan: But I want to know why that verse is a prophecy. You [offered] [Crosstalk.] that verse, and said it was an example of a prophecy. Why is it a prophecy?
Jason: That verse is a prophecy because it says that "I will establish my covenant with him, for an everlasting covenant." It wasn't just a temporary covenant . . .
Dan: But what did he predict? What's the prophecy?
Jason: He prophesized that . . . See we can see over in Luke 3:34 where Jesus came from "the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac." Jesus was the one that fulfilled this prophecy by having an everlasting covenant with God.
Dan: Which is . . . That [Luke 3:34] is just saying that Jesus was a Jew. I mean because all Jews can say they were from that line basically.
Jason: Up until about 70 A.D. they could, and then after that it was impossible to trace their line because they all were scattered all over the place.
Dan: But why do you think Genesis 17:19 is prophecy? Because the New Testament writer thought it was? Where does it say, "Here is a prophecy: the messiah will be born and his name will be Jesus"? Where does it say that in the Old Testament?
Jason: Well, I don't know if it has the prophecy that you're looking for in the Old Testament.
Dan: It seems very, very vague. It seems like the kind of thing that a New Testament writer would be digging around to try to say, "Aha! We can make this verse fit our theology."
Jason: Why would [?] do that?
Dan: Because they had a religious agenda. These New Testament writers admitted . . . "These things are written that you might believe" [John 20:31], right? They had an agenda to promote their theology over all these other competing theologies, and even within Christianity [Crosstalk] these New Testament writers . . . so they looked back to the Old Testament and they found these "prophecies" that "predicted" what was going to happen. But when you look at the actual prophecies themselves, scratch beneath the surface, they're not really prophecies at all about anything at all. Later Christian writers are rewriting history. Tell me a real prophecy.
Jason: Well there's hundreds of them and we'll talk about so more of them.
Dan: Well give me another example then.
Jason: First are you admitting that you believe that there was a man named Jesus? And the apostles, they all exist?
Dan: I am saying that I admit that there was an early Christian community who may or may not have been based on a man named Jesus, and it's irrelevant. If he was . . . if there was a Jesus--which there may have been--he certainly was not the son of God, and he certainly was not a perfect teacher, or a very admirable teacher either. But I do agree that there was an early Christian community because you have to explain the existence of those Christian writings. And not just Christian writings, but other religious sect writings. So, yeah.
Jason: Ok, ok. And I think it's also well-known that the apostles, all of them except for one or two who were exiled, died terrible deaths for what they believed.
Dan: No, that's not well-known. How do you know that?
Jason: Uh, talks of the Book of Martyrs. It's just tradition.
Dan: Tradition? You know these books were written like in the second and third and fourth centuries after Christianity, pretending to know how these disciples lived. There's a paradox here. Think about it . . .
Dan: Jesus, if he lived, died around the year 30 . . . 28, 29 or 30, because he was born in the year 4 B.C. So, if he lived, he would have died around the year 30. His disciples would have been what?
Jason: I think 32 is actually that date I've come up with.
Dan: Well it can't be that late. It's probably around the year 30. So, the disciples would have been what, in their mid-20s or 30s or so? The average life expectancy in Rome, in Roman times in that part of the country was about 45 years old. So if these guys were all martyred in their lives for preaching Christianity, how did any of them live long enough to write the gospels in the years 80 and 90?
Jason: How do you know that's the life expectancy in Rome at that time?
Dan: Because I have a friend, Richard Carrier, who is an expert on early Roman history and I asked him specifically, what were the expected . . . what was the life expectancy of human beings in that time? And he gave me an actuarial chart that shows what it would have been. So, these . . . if any of them had lived past the year 60, that would have been really good luck, but you're saying they were all martyred, right?
Jason: All of them except for [Crosstalk.]
Dan: So we know that the gospels were written in the year 70, 80s and 90s, and maybe even later. So you're imagining that these disciples who all died horrible deaths, somehow lived into their 90s to write these gospels. There's a contradiction there, and obviously whoever wrote the gospels, many of them didn't even know Jesus and were not part of that original following.
Jason: Why do you think the gospels were written at such a late date?
Dan: Well, because there was an early Christian church. They didn't call themselves Christians right away, but there was an early church, a Jewish sect that thought they had a messiah. And, as the second and third generations came along they were trying to preserve their histories and they wrote and edited and rewrote and borrowed and redacted, and they started getting into fights and controversies, and so they were starting to write down "my gospel says this is what happened," and "mine says this is what happened." And you can see why the gospels all contradict each other. Because they're all writing kind of shooting from the hip, basically.
Jason: I really . . . I don't see any meaningful contradictions in the gospels at all.
Dan: Oh you don't? That's what I used to preach, Jason. But in my book I detail many many many contradictions that have never been answered. And why would there not be contradictions? Were these writers exempt? Were these special people in some way? Human beings today make mistakes. Why were they exempt from making mistakes back in those days? They made lots of them.
Jason: I guess the common theory is that if God could make the universe, then God could write a book, or write these people . . . write a book through these people.
Dan: Yeah, right.
Jason: Do you want to give me an example of a contradiction or two that's from the New Testament gospels?
Dan: Sure I will. Well I have about forty really good ones, but let's say Acts 7:9 and Acts 9, uh . . . You know, "did Paul's men hear a voice?" Is that . . . Acts 9:7?
Jason: Acts 9:7 . . .
Dan: Look up Acts 9:7. Not in the NIV by the way. Are you using the NIV?
Jason: I usually use the New King James or the King James.
Dan: Yeah, the NIV is really bad. I mean, the NIV should pay a fine. They've mistranslated a whole bunch of the Bible. Acts 9:7, here's my NRSV, [it] says: "The men who were traveling with Paul stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one." Right? And then, Acts, is it 22:9? See if my memory is any good. [In] Acts 22:9, Paul is telling the story: "Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking . . . speaking to me." So Act 9:7 says that they "heard the voice," but Paul says "Nope, you got it wrong Luke. They did not hear the voice." And there's another verse later in Acts, and I can't remember exact . . . Actually that story is told three times. That's just one little example of many many contradictions in the Bible. And people try to say, "Well, it means they heard and didn't understand." I wrote an entire column about that [Did Paul's Men Hear a Voice?], and there . . . to this date, there are no quick answers to contradictions like that. I know you think you can provide one, so we should give you a chance to.
Jason: Ok, Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 . . . I just got a chance to look them up here. Acts 22:9 . . . Ok, so we're talking about . . . These scriptures are talking about the voice that Paul heard when he was on the road to Damascus?
Jason: Ok. And one verse in Acts . . .
Dan: "The men," . . . "the men who were traveling heard the voice, but saw no one." But in 22:9, they "did not hear the voice."
Dan: So I mean, that's . . . Obviously you have to admit, at least at face value, that's a contradiction, right? They "heard the voice" -- they "did not hear the voice."
Jason: Well, the first thing that came to my mind, and I need to investigate this passage more before I can give you an official statement, but um, the logical thing is that, at first, Paul thought that these people did not hear the voice, and then later on, after confirmation, he realized that they did. Or vice-versa, I'm sorry if I've gotten the scriptures mixed up. This is the first time I've investigated this claim.
Dan: Yeah, well you should take more time than this. You shouldn't wing it on the air. But obviously one of them is wrong then, because Luke [Paul] says they did not hear the voice, and Paul [Luke] said they did. So one of them . . . However you explain it, somebody is wrong, somewhere.
Jason: [Crosstalk.] . . . you're saying that one of these accounts is from Paul, and one of these accounts is from Luke? They're two different accounts?
Dan: Well, yeah, because see Luke . . . Well, actually Luke wrote the book of Acts, right? And he's in his own voice in chapter 9, but in chapter 22 he's quoting Paul.
Dan: So, and these are Paul's words supposedly. We can supposedly assume that Luke knew Paul enough to quote him correctly. Maybe Luke got the quote wrong, in which case, you have a different kind of imperfection in the Bible.
Dan: But see, that's just one. In my book I detail dozens and dozens of maybe more important ones than these, to show that these were just guys. I mean they were people just doing their best, and of course they were going to make mistakes. Of course . . . You get a bunch of people today to try to write a book, they're going to goof somewhere. What, are we attributing superhuman abilities to these gospel writers? They're just telling it in their own words, and of course they're going to blow it. We can't give them 100% credibility.
Jason: Well, yeah, I'd like to check out your book. It sounds pretty interesting if it documents these types of things. I've been meaning to put together a refute of something called the Skeptic's Annotated Bible.
Dan: Oh yeah, I know that guy. He's out of Idaho . . . uh, yeah, Idaho.
Jason: Yeah. He has a large site about different Bible problems or contradictions, and I've read some of them. But I think it would be a great ministry tool if I could take the time. It would probably take many hours.
Dan: Well it would be, Jason, if you could do that. But let me ask you something.
Dan: Why do you think, a priori, that all of these contradictions can be explained? Are you committed to something that you can't possibly have known before the fact? You're taking a doctrinal position, or an ideological position that "the Bible must not be discrepant, therefore, it cannot be, therefore I will find answers." Is that your attitude? Or are you going to the Bible with an open mind, thinking I'm going to find what I find, even if I don't like what I find?
Jason: Well I suppose it's for the same reason that I created my internet forum. An atheist found me on the internet in April, and um, I started talking to him about Christ. He invited me to [the] Reggie Finley show, so I talked on there about atheism and Christianity, prophecy, creation, all different issues, then I went into their forum for a while and started talking to them. And actually, I got mistreated quite a bit, cursed at and things, so I said, you know, I'm going to make my own forum, and I'm going to invite everybody over here. I'm going to moderate. People are going to be treated right. And um . . .
Dan: Ok, well that's good. I support that. I think we need more forums like yours, and more people like you, but my question was: Why do you think, a priori, that the Bible must not and can not have any contradictions? Where did you get that idea?
Jason: I know, I'm getting to that. I was also . . . I created a forum with this thought in mind that . . . (Coughs.) Excuse me . . . . that there were answers to these questions. And, if there weren't, then I would discover that also. Um, I posted over 1500 messages on this forum, and all these atheists, I mean there's a hundred members in there right now, they posted things that are seemingly, you know, unanswerable. And all it does is take maybe a half an hour of time, sometimes it takes thirty seconds, two minutes of time, sometimes it takes a couple of hours, but, there are answers, and it's ground that has been traveled. And um . . . Yeah, if I come across just a stumper that I can't answer, then I guess that would put into question the Word of God.
Dan: But it wouldn't question your faith. There are millions of good Christians who accept the fact that the Bible has contradictions, but it doesn't hurt their faith in God. They realize that it was written by human beings, and so they dig through it to find the gems. They're not committed, in advance, to inerrancy. You know what I mean?
Dan: It's like the fundamentalist mindset has to be black and white. There's a lot of good Christians who don't care as much as you [Jason Laughs], maybe. I'm just wondering why you would think, in advance, that the Bible must not have contradictions in it. I used to think the same thing, and it's funny how when you put on a different pair of glasses that you say, "Oh, I see where I was wrong. I was looking . . . I was coming at it with this attitude that was unwarranted in the first place."
Jason: Well, the biggest authenticator of scripture to me, even above my own experience, which is, would have to be prophecy.
Dan: Well you gave me a really bad example. Give me a better one then.
Jason: Ok, I mean, I'm sorry if that was a bad example. I got hundreds, literally, right here at my fingertips.
Dan: Well give me another example of a clear prophecy. You know, that predicted the future.
Jason: Ok this . . . I have a lot of messianic ones, but let's step aside from the messianic ones. One particular one that I think is pretty interesting is, um . . . [to self] Let me see here, which one is this? Let me just make sure that I get this scripture right. It talks about how Israel will be a "cup of trembling" for the nations around it, and the whole world will be gathered up trying to figure out what to do with this country. And, um, it sounds exactly like Israel is right now. And before 1948, this would sound like a ridiculous prophecy. Israel didn't even have a country. And now the whole, literally the whole world, is discussing this country that's as big as San Diego County, um, night and day.
Dan: Yeah, but at the time that verse was written--you haven't found the verse have you?--at the time it was written Israel was a nation. And it was a . . . Those words were describing that particular nation at that particular time. Does the prophecy say anything about 1948?
Jason: No, it doesn't say anything about 1948.
Dan: Why not? Didn't God know the date? Why can't you be . . . Why can't prophecies be specific? Why couldn't . . . I mean, it would really impress me if that prophecy said, "Israel will be dispersed into the nations for two thousand years, and on the year 1948 they will come back and establish a new nation, and at that time the Egyptians are this, and the . . ." You know . . . You know what I'm saying? If it was clear . . .
Jason: Yes, absolutely.
Dan: . . . and specific instead of having to dig back through and try to find some verse that you think is a prophecy of today and try to make it fit. It's very fuzzy, it's very fudgy. I'm not convinced by this kind of fuzziness. I would be convinced by, and I would happily change my mind, if you would come up with something clear and strong. Do you know what I'm saying?
Dan: I mean anybody could . . . I could say that about America: "America is going to have trouble with its enemies someday." Is that a prophecy?
Jason: Well, I understand where you're going and your problem with this, and I think in large, it's the same kind of problem I heard from the atheists when I was on Reggie's show, and it's just that you don't like God's plan. You don't like the way it's laid out.
Dan: Wait a minute . . .
Jason: You don't like the way the prophecies are laid out.
Dan: Why are you saying that? Now you're engaging in ad hominem. You're trying to second-guess my psychology. What if I did, in fact, like God's plan, but still was intellectually honest enough to say that I think the Bible is contradictory. I mean, that's really unfair to accuse somebody of having ulterior motives when I have told you and everybody that I want to follow the truth wherever it leads. Even if I don't like God's plan I would still follow it if it's the truth. I don't, I'm not stupid.
Jason: Well He's given you prophecies, and you don't like how they're worded.
Dan: Well, I don't see them as prophecies. It's you who's telling me that it's a prophecy, but I don't see the Bible itself telling me this is a prophecy. It's you later Christians coming along, reinterpreting what you think was a prophecy. I would like to seen an actual . . . In fact, there is plenty of evidence of failed prophecies in the Bible.
Jason: If you take these in context, these prophecies are talking about future events.
Dan: Yeah, but when?
Jason: It's obviously not about something that's happening at the time
Dan: Isn't it true, though, that that prophecy you just mentioned was actually fulfilled during that nation's time?
Dan: I mean the Israelites were already having troubles with their neighbors. They were already being beset at that time.
Jason: Well, Zechariah 12:1, 2 and 3 was the one that I was talking about, and I think verse 3 is the telling verse because it says, "Jerusalem shall be a very heavy stone for all people." And, um, we can see that right now.
Dan: But wait, what page is that on? Wait a minute. I mean, it's one thing to blithely throw out the prophecies around. Zechariah what?
Jason: Zechariah 12, verses 1 through 3.
Dan: All right, now who's speaking? Is Zechariah?
Dan: Oh, "The word of the Lord considering Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth . . ." [reading from the NRSV] Now that's what he thinks, right? . . . "and formed the human spirit within." See, "I am about to make Jerusalem a cup . . ." In other words, right now, today. "I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling for all the surrounding peoples; it will be against Judah . . ." Is there a nation of Judah right now? ". . . also in the siege against Jerusalem." Today is there a nation of Judah? No there isn't. "On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth shall come together against it." Where in the world does this talk about 1948? Where does it talk about any of the nations today that are attacking Israel? This was these people back then bewailing their own predicament.
Dan: And he says he [misses] Judah. So there's a failed . . . There's an evidence that that is not a prophecy about today, and yet you think it is for some reason.
Jason: Well, it doesn't have to say 1948. The reason why I said that is because it wouldn't make any sense, I said, before Israel became a nation. Because it's obviously a nation in this. And just because it says the word "Judah" doesn't, isn't . . . Judah is still a place, it could still be considered a place in Israel.
Dan: It's people. It will be against . . . "for all the surrounding peoples," it will be against Judah also, in this siege against Jerusalem. So then he's talking about some thing that's supposed to be happening right then. This is not a prophecy about the future. Do you see what happens in the Christian mindset when you find something that you think might apply to your special case? You make it apply and you say, "Look it! There are six hundred prophecies about the messiah," or whatever, but when you scratch beneath the surface and look at each of these, you don't find it. I used to preach those verses. I used to preach just like you're preaching right now, and I used to feel so confident about it. But scratch beneath the surface and you start seeing the theological bias. It happens in all religions. It's happening to you right now.
Jason: Now how about Ezekiel 38 and 39? Do you think those have come to pass, or do you think that's . . .? Because what you're doing . . . It's typical atheistic rhetoric, what you're giving me, and that is, "This stuff does not apply to me," and um, "This stuff is untrue."
Dan: Rhetoric? "Rhetoric" is probably not the right word. I'm trying to examine it and see what it actually says. What's the verse in Ezekiel?
Jason: Ezekiel 38 and 39. Those two chapters have been termed a Magog invasion, because it's referring to an invasion that has not happened. Um, where Russia and Turkey, [Dan laughs] and a few of the other surrounding Muslim nations will gang up against Israel.
Dan: So you think today's current events are fulfillments of that prophecy?
Jason: I don't think that this has happened yet, but I think that the nations are starting to line up in a way that this will happen.
Dan: Oh, so then you don't have any evidence that this prophecy, if it is a prophecy, has actually been fulfilled yet do you?
Jason: No, no, I just said [Crosstalk] it hasn't been fulfilled yet.
Dan: So you're prophesying that this prophecy will be fulfilled?
Jason: Well, all I'm saying . . . I'm asking you, it's a question to you. Has this been fulfilled yet? Because the other one, you said, was a specific prophecy for that time. It did not apply to us, it had been fulfilled. So I wanted to know what your swing on this one was.
Dan: Well, let me find the prophecy first. Where is the actual . . . where's the actual verse of prophecy in here?
Jason: Uh, verse . . . It just describes the, uh . . . I'm looking at it right now. It describes the battle here.
Dan: [Ezekiel 38:3,4] "I am against you . . . I will turn you around and put hooks into your jaws . . ."
Jason: It's referring how Magog, or Russia, will be drawn into this battle.
Dan: [Ezekiel 38:4] "They will put hooks in their jaws, they will lead you out with the army, the horses"? They're going to have horses?
Jason: Well . . .
Dan: Is Russia going to attack with horses and horsemen? "Clothed in full armor"? With "shields and bucklers and swords"? Is that going to come to pass?
Jason: You know what, you had Old Testament writers, [Dan laughs] hundreds of years ago writing things . . .
Dan: Well don't you see my point?
Jason: The same thing with Revelation. You have human beings who have never seen or heard a helicopter or a tank or any of these things, trying to describe these things. I mean, read further. Maybe when you're off the phone you can read 38 and 39, because it clearly talks about a nucular battle, and nucular fallout that happens where they cannot be around the area for seven months--just as long as it would take for the nucular materials to, um, have their half-lifes so that it doesn't damage people anymore.
Dan: I thought the word was NU-CLE-AR, not NUKE-U-LAR.
Jason: I . . . NUKE-U . . .
Jason: Isn't that what I said?
Dan: I thought you said NUKE-U-LAR, but that's all right.
Dan: Well ok, let's um . . . This doesn't look like a prophecy about today, but maybe if your prophecy comes true, that this prophecy will someday be fulfilled, then I will have to change my mind. But let me raise a more serious problem here.
Dan: You're saying that there is a god that knows the future, and that this god is a personal being with free will who can make decisions, right?
Jason: Hmm . . . I'm sorry, I'm sorry, we're getting away from the question, but let's go ahead. Go ahead and tell me . . .
Dan: Well, you're talking about prophecy, right?
Jason: I was talking about a specific prophecy, but let's talk about what you're saying. Go ahead.
Dan: Well, if this god exists . . .
Dan: . . . and if he knows the future, like you pretend he knows here, . . .
Dan: . . . that means that the set of future facts is fixed. It cannot be changed. If God knows it in advance, then the future is fixed and unchangeable. Otherwise, God wouldn't be omniscient. He wouldn't be able to predict the future.
Dan: If the future is fixed, then that sets some limits on God's power. And also, how can a personal being with free will have any ability to make any decisions if the future is already fixed? God himself cannot even make any decisions, because he can't do what he knows that he's not going to do. Therefore, if this kind of god exists, philosophically, this god is not a personal free being. He's more like a robot or something.
Jason: I think you jump from God knowing the future to the point where you asserted that God controls the actions, all the actions of human beings.
Dan: No, I'm talking about God's own actions, not human beings.
Dan: I'm talking about God . . . If God knows what he's going to do . . .
Dan: . . . tomorrow at twelve noon, right?
Dan: Then God can't change in the meantime what he's going to do between now and then. He knows it.
Jason: Well, I think there's an instance in Jonah, where God had told Jonah to tell Nineveh that Nineveh is going to be wiped out because of their sin. And then Nineveh decided to repent with weeping and fasting, and God decided to exercise his perfect mercy on them.
Dan: Yeah, but that was clearly conditional. That was a supposed conditional prophecy. I'm talking about these prophecies that are supposedly clear prophecies of something that will happen.
Jason: I don't know if that was conditional. In Jonah there's only four chapters, but um, as far as I could tell, it was God telling them judgment will come on you. And some people have said that looks like God has changed his mind, or changed. How could this happen with a changeless god? But in reality, he decided to use his perfect mercy instead of his judgment.
Dan: So, before he exercised his mercy, did he have one idea of what the future would be like, but after he exercised his mercy, he changed his mind and had a different idea of what the future would be like? In other words, was he not omniscient to begin with? Was the set of future facts changeable or fixed? [Do] you know what I'm saying? If it's changeable, then God doesn't know the future.
Jason: Why is that?
Dan: Because he doesn't know how the ball is going to bounce. He doesn't know. He's like you and me, right?
Dan: So if God doesn't know the future, then he can't prophesy anything, because anything can happen between now and then. Do you see the philosophical problem here? He's either a free being that can make decisions openly, or else he knows a fixed future that cannot be changed. He can't have it both ways. He might be omniscient, in which case he's not omnipotent. Or he might be prescient, in which case he's not a free being, and he's not worthy of my worship if he's like a robot or a computer program or something.
Jason: Ok, I see what you're saying, I think. And um, I think that the rub is just because God doesn't step in and do the things that you do think he should do if he were to exist, that doesn't necessarily mean that he's not there, or not powerful or couldn't do something.
Dan: I'm not saying that at all. That wasn't my point. My point was that if your definition is right, then something's got to give. You have a mutually incompatible definition of a god: one who knows the future, and yet is also a free personal being. I'm not telling him what to do. If there's a God, he can do what he wants to. But I'm just saying that you have a problem with an incompatibility in your definition of what God is like. According to you, Ezekiel 38 tells, predicts a future which will happen, right?
Jason: Uh-huh. Right.
Dan: And there's no way that you or I, or even God can change that.
Dan: Right? It's predicting something. And if God can't change that, then God has limits on his power and on his freedom.
Dan: Therefore, he is something less than the being that you claim to worship.
Jason: Ok, well yeah, the argument that you're using is much more tied into what I said than you realize, because it's the same kind of argument that atheists have used before to say, "if God can't lie, if God can't steal, if God can't do evil, if he can't do these things, then we're not worshipping an omnipotent god." But um, it's just I think how much this argument stems from a lack of understanding.
Dan: I'm not saying that either, but--I've heard atheists say that, and I disagree with it --because if there is a god, he has a nature, right? And he would want to act in accordance with his nature, so I'm not saying that.
Dan: I know enough about theology and the Bible to know that this god that Christians worship has a particular nature that he usually acts in accordance with. Not always, but . . .
Jason: That doesn't mean that he's not omnipotent, it just means that he's not doing the things that you, or someone else, would see as a complete, powerful, all-powerful god.
Dan: Well, [Laughs] then it's not just omnipotence, but it's freedom. If, if . . . in order for you to make a decision . . . Let's say you're going to make a choice about who-knows-what. Let's say you're going to have coffee or tea, or you're going to chose a mate, or whatever. In order to have freedom, or the illusion of freedom, you have to have at least more than one option available to you, each of which could be freely chosen or rejected, and there has to be a period of time during which there's an uncertainty during which you could change your mind, right?
Jason: Yeah, all humanly speaking you're correct, I think.
Dan: Yeah, and so that's the definition of "free will" and freedom.
Dan: If there is a god who is a person, and [being a] person requires this freedom to make decisions, then this also applies to God. He also has to have the freedom during a period of uncertainty to be able to change his mind and to exercise mercy or justice or to change . . . Do you know what I mean? Otherwise, he's not a free being, right?
Dan: He has to have that period of potential, but . . .
Jason: I think God has just bound Himself to the promises he has made to us. If you want to say that that makes him less omnipotent than some other god, then maybe you could say that.
Dan: I'm not saying [less] omnipotent. I'm saying less of a person, less of a free person. As a personality, he's more like a robot than . . . He might be totally omnipotent, but he's not the kind of person that I would find admirable to worship as a person. He's more like this force of a huge computer program or something. Do you know what I'm saying? He's not a being. He's not a personal being if he knows the future. He can't be because he has no freedom, no choice, no period of potential to change his mind and be and to be merciful or warm or friendly. Do you know what I mean? He's not like you and me. He's some sort of a weird creature up there who's running things in a colder kind of impersonal way, and that's the kind of creature that I could not worship or respect.
Jason: But on a human level, it's possible to know the future and then, I mean, to an extent, and still be loving, or . . . Isn't it?
Dan: Well, none of us knows the future. We get lucky a lot.
Jason: Yeah, I just mean like I'm going to go to [laughs] to work today, or I'm going to do this, or I'm going to do that, or my kid's going to do this tonight . . .
Dan: Yeah, but on the way to work you still have the option--you probably wouldn't exercise it--but you could still change your mind and go somewhere else, right?
Dan: That's what makes you free.
Dan: But if you did not have that option, you wouldn't be free. Your hands would drive to work no matter what. You wouldn't be, you wouldn't have free will. You wouldn't . . .
Jason: I suppose it would give me, it's given me even more of a respect for God, realizing now, that he has laid down his omnipotence in order to give humans comfort by promising them things.
Dan: So he's not omnipotent, you just said?
Jason: Well he's surely omnipotent, but his type of omnipotence is different from the type of omnipotence that you want him to be, apparently.
Dan: I don't want him to be anything. I'm just trying to make sense of this Bible. I don't want God to be anything at all. If he exists, he can be whatever he wants to be. I mean, that's not up to me to decide. I'm trying to decide whether or not I think he, first of all, exists at all, and secondly, even if he did, if he is worthy of my admiration. Because I have the free will to choose, don't I?
Dan: I don't have to like him do I? But I don't have to respect him. You know, I could denounce him if I choose. That's part of my freedom, right? And so it's my choice whether or not I find this kind of a being worthy of my respect. And I find him unworthy of my respect. I mean, what's wrong with me exercising my judgment, based on moral intellectual principles, to say such a thing?
Jason: Ok. Well let's . . . Do you want to talk about creation for a minute? Origins?
Dan: Oh yeah, what about it?
Jason: Uh, I'm curious, just how do you think that we all got . . . How do you think that we got here?
Dan: Well, you can answer that question a hundred ways. My mother and dad fell in love and they produced a baby.
Jason: [Laughs] Yeah, you know what I mean. I mean like [laughs] I mean like biogenesis, you know, the study of origins. How do you think life came into being?
Dan: Well, life is life. I mean life is . . . I guess the most common definition of life is an organism that is self-contained and self-replicating, and cares about its own survival. So we wouldn't call a crystal alive, even though it is organized and complex. I mean we wouldn't call a crystal living. It vibrates too, but . . . Science shows us very clearly that biological life on this planet came about through the natural process of evolution, and it's continuing now. In fact, many if not most Bible-believing Christians believe the fact of evolution. They don't see any conflict with, between evolution and their faith because they see evolution as one of the tools that their God used to create the world. Who's to say that God could not use evolution? In other words, are you going to tie his hands and say that he can't produce life by having it evolve?
Jason: Yeah, there's a couple . . . Let me respond to that. In order to prove something scientifically, it has to be observed. So, uh, when we get into origins . . .
Dan: That's not true Jason.
Jason: No it is true.
Dan: No it's not. You can observe indirectly as well, and you can prove things . . . I mean, all history would be worthless then because nobody's . . .
Jason: There's different kinds of . . . There's forensic science, for instance, and I think that's what we use when we're trying to determine the age and the origin of the universe. It's like when you go to a crime scene and you see different things, you try and put together evidence and an argument for what happened. Then there's no human being alive today that existed, I mean, that witnessed either creation or evolution, so we're all trying to figure out how it happened, what happened.
Dan: But, uh, that's not exactly true. We are witnessing evolution all the time, on the micro scale and the macro scale, we are seeing it happen before our eyes.
Jason: I don't believe in anything above the species level.
Dan: Well, who made that line? Who drew that arbitrary line through the world?
Jason: I'm sure that God drew the line on where species can evolve.
Dan: You're sure of that, huh? What about hybrids then, between species? You know, I mean [laughs.] . . .
Jason: Yeah, with human intervention too, things can be done, but you obviously cannot use human intervention when you're talking about origins because no humans were around.
Dan: Well exactly, but we still know from science . . . I mean, evolution is a fact of science, there is no doubt about . . .
Jason: Absolutely. Microevolution is a fact of science.
Dan: So is macroevolution among species. That is fact.
Dan: There are all sorts of species that are extinct. There are all sorts of variations within species that we see happening in the wild, documented day to day, variations . . .
Jason: I agree, I agree. The primrose plant is one example, and it's been proven to produce a different species on its own.
Dan: So what's the problem then? I mean, there's no real . . .
Jason: The problem is because we have never seen anything go from, say, ape to man, and we don't have this fossil bed of intermediate fossils that prove that this happened.
Dan: On the contrary, we certainly do. We have all sorts of fossil evidence of species descending from ancestors. No one claims that anything went from an ape to man. What evolution claims is that humans and the other apes all came from a common ancestor. Just like you or your brothers and sisters came from a common ancestor. You didn't come from each other, right? And yet you're different from each other. You came from an ancestor who's slightly different from you. And that's just one of the facts of biological life. We all evolved from common ancestors, and if you go back far enough, we come from one common ancestor.
Jason: Yeah, it's interesting how people have even admitted to that, even evolutionists, it's called the . . . I forget what they, the Eve Theory or something, how some evolutionists do believe that we all came from one person, [or] two people.
Dan: Well, no they don't. You're talking about the Mitochondrial Eve?
Jason: Right, right, right.
Dan: Well no. No one claims . . . I mean, what they claim is that there was one ancestral woman who ended up becoming the mother of all the descendants who exist today. But there were other humans, there were other mothers, there were other . . . She wasn't the only one.
Dan: It's like if you have a family with four sons in it, or four daughters, and only one of them has a child, and the other one doesn't, and the other one had children that don't survive into the future. That's what the mitochondrial, or the other types of . . . There's different kinds of "Eves." It depends on how far back you want to go. It wasn't a single woman and a single man who suddenly popped out of nowhere. They were descendants from ancestors.
Jason: Right, yeah.
Dan: And besides that, what's the problem? Why is this a problem? When millions of good, Bible-believing Christians accept the fact of evolution, at all levels?
Jason: Ok, well the problem is that . . . Well, just let me . . . I've got to quote Darwin first, and then I'll tell you what the problem is. I love to quote that when he said, um, in the 1800s, that "there must be an enormous fossil bed found with intermediate fossils or my theories really don't hold much water." Um, and that has not been found. People have looked for years and years and years and they haven't found this huge fossil existence to prove that there was all this changing. And that's where people started saying, ok, then there was really fast jumps. People just jumped from one to the next, you know, in this big leap, evolutionary leap, and it's just kind of ridiculous, you know?
Dan: Ok, but I'm still asking you, what's the problem? True or false, what are we dealing with here?
Dan: Suppose evolution is false. What is your basic overriding point here? Suppose I say, "Oh, golly gee. We were all wrong about evolution."
Dan: Well then, what?
Jason: Then, the problem is, if you're wrong about evolution, then there's no problem. But if, um, the preaching of evolution and the . . . It being in public schools, and not giving creation equal time, and . . .
Dan: What do you mean not giving . . . There are many Christians who believe evolution is part of creation.
Jason: That's not the issue.
Dan: Then what is . . .
Jason: I'm talking about public schools and the teaching of each theory.
Dan: You mean Genesis, is what you're talking about?
Jason: Uh, yeah. Intelligent Design . . .
Dan: You're viewing this as a contest between scientific evolution and the Book of Genesis?
Jason: Um, Intelligent Design and the creation account in Genesis I think are very compelling.
Dan: Well, no one's telling parents that they can't teach that to their kids, if that's their particular mythology that they want to follow. The Book of Genesis is a story. It's not science.
Jason: And when I read "millions and millions of years" in my text book, that is a story also.
Dan: Well yeah, but it's a story that has radio carbon testing, and has strata of . . . It has comparative anatomy, and it has comparative genetics. It makes predictions about what we will find. It has the fossil record . . .
Jason: I'm not saying to get rid of science. I think science and the Bible go hand in hand. I think they . . . I'm not saying that at all. But when you talk about dating methods, when you don't count into things like a universal flood with cataclysmic activity and volcanoes . . .
Dan: Because the Bible said it happened, right? You're really talking about the Bible.
Jason: Uh . . .
Dan: You're pitting the Bible against modern science, and you think the Bible should have an equal voice in the classroom, in the science classroom, right? Is that what you're saying?
Jason: No, I'm saying that evolution . . . Well, what I was saying about the flood that it really throws off dating methods. And you probably know as well as I do that people use radio carbon dating and they can get ten different dates for the same fossil. It's really not a reliable source of dates.
Dan: Ok, but don't you see what I'm asking you? I'm asking you, "So what? Let's throw all that out and then just say . . .", what are you saying? Are you saying the Book of Genesis is scientific? Is that what you are saying, and should be taught in the science classroom?
Jason: I'm saying the Book of Genesis is a legitimate account of our origins and the best and closest thing we have to the truth.
Dan: Ok, if that's true, then what scientific experiments, or tests, or methodologies are being conducted to demonstrate the hypothesis that the Book of Genesis is scientific? Where is the science in Creation Science? What journals are accepting articles of publication proving through empirical methods that the, you know that, uh, Eve came out of Adam's body, and so on? Where is the science in Creation Science? Tell me that.
Jason: Well, science. In order to prove something scientifically, it must be observed. So as soon as you use the word "millions and millions of years," that puts you on the same level as Genesis, because we're talking forensic type science that cannot be observed. We're talking religion, is what we're talking.
Dan: But we do, we do observe millions of years of rock strata going back and back and back. The further back you go, the simpler the fossils become. The further back these rocks go . . . Even if the dating is wrong, there's still a progression of time.
Jason: Well that progression was seen at the eruption of Mount St. Helens. It laid strata just like the Grand Canyon and, I mean, you've got to believe if someone walked up there, had never seen the place, didn't know what was going on, looked at that strata, they would say that took millions of years to happen. It took it, it happened in minutes.
Dan: I was just at the Grand Canyon. Mound St. Helens just put up ash, basically. Did it put up these different . . .
Jason: No, it layed down strata. It caused a significant mud flow and ran into the lake, and you can see the strata if you go there or see a video.
Dan: Well of course you can find strata, but I mean they don't find the same levels in . . . Do they find, like higher up in the strata, do they find complex fossils, but the deeper they go, do they find simpler and simpler fossils until they get back to the trilobites and even before that? Is that what they find? This is really good evidence that tests the hypothesis of evolution. Where is the evidence that tests the hypothesis of Genesis? That's what I'm asking.
Jason: Well, you're . . . it's kind of, it's just one of those kind of bait and switch things. "Yes, we can prove microevolution, so macroevolution above the species level, must have happened," and no one has observed that to happen yet.
Dan: Yes they have. Because, do you know why? Scientists don't even agree on how to define what a species is.
Dan: There are no hard lines between species. Some scientists say "These two things are species, different species," but other scientists say, "Wait a minute, no they're not, they can't interbreed." You don't know where to draw the lines between species either. And when a population has been isolated long enough, so that they can't or won't breed with each other, we call that a species. I think the Bible calls them "kinds," but . . .
Dan: . . . we do see changes all the time. Even today we see the changes between different, what we would call a species. Like the finches on the Galapagos, we see basic anatomical beak size changes over, you know, after a period of drought or, let's say, a heavy rain. These things do happen. But still, we're getting off the point. If Genesis is true, in any kind of scientific way, then where is the scientific confirmation for the Book of Genesis?
Jason: The scientific confirmation? I think I answered this question already.
Dan: Mount St. Helens, huh?
Jason: No, no, no. My answer was that it's on level ground with this quote/unquote "science" that is taught when you say the words "millions and millions of years." It's just stuff that can't be proven. It's theory. It's religion really.
Dan: So what you're saying is that actual evolutionary science is not good science and has no confirmation, therefore the Book of Genesis, which is also not good science and doesn't have this confirmation, should be allowed to stand at this equal, low level? "Where is your proof of Genesis?" is what I'm asking. Why should it even be considered as a scientific truth? Do you hear what I'm saying?
Jason: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, and that's one way to put it. And even putting it the way you did, which was a little callous, it still goes to show that both theories are on level ground, and that's all I'm saying, that both theories should be taught.
Dan: So you're saying that evolution is bad, and Genesis is just as bad? That's what you're basically saying.
Jason: I'm saying that the evolution of species . . . I don't like to say evolution because evolution happens with the micro level, and even in the species level sometimes, but the evolution of species, from micro to man, has not been proven and cannot be proven.
Dan: I disagree with you. The evolution of species from micro to man, to humans, has been proven by just about any possible way. Comparative genetics is one way to show it. There are microbes that contain the exact same sequences of genetic material in their genes that we have within ours. We can show common ancestry as you branch off. It's like proving two people are cousins. How would you do that? You would do that by showing similarities in their looks, and then looking at who their parents were and then . . . They're not the same people. And the same thing happens . . . If you would study evolution. Look at some of the good books. What was the last pro-evolution book that you read? It's wonderful science. It's exciting science because it's teaching us something--not [just] more than "I believe that God created the Earth"--it's teaching us something real about the world we live in. And it's much better than those sermons I used to preach about sin and salvation
Jason: Naw, it's just all based on false assumptions.
Dan: Says who?
Jason: It's philosophy, it's theory.
Dan: Says who?
Jason: It's based on dating methods that can't be proven.
Dan: Says who?
Jason: It's based on things that people weren't around to observe. It's just not science.
Dan: Jason, where is the scientific journal that demonstrates these dating methods are unreliable? Point me to something that the scientific community now says, "Yep, we have to throw out these dating methods." What are you quoting when you make that statement?
Jason: Well I can give you some websites and you can check it out.
Dan: Websites? You don't have it though, you don't know it right now?
Dan: But I'm asking the scientific, I'm not asking the pro-religious ones. Where is the scientific community admitting that these dating methods are faulty? Where are they saying that?
Jason: Well, I mean I could find you that by the end of the hour. People, scientific people know, anybody who is honest will know, paleontologists generally admit this, that they get multiple dates when they try and date things, and they just pick, they choose, they guess which one. They say, well it was found here about this time and . . .
Dan: What paleontologist is saying that?
Jason: Yeah, I'll have to get you these people's names if you . . .
Dan: It sounds to me suspiciously like you're passing on Creation Science dogma rather than real science here. Of course there are differences, and one of the strengths of science is that it allows for the differences of opinion. Yes, the dates can vary by maybe as much as centuries, but relative dates . . . You can still use dating methods even if they vary by a few centuries, when you're talking about millions of years you get [a] really close degree of accuracy. And of course the relative dates are all going to be the same. We know this happened first, then this happened next. And it depends what you're dating. Are you dating the wood in the campfire, or are you dating the rocks next to the campfire? There's all sorts of variables. Scientists aren't stupid. They're not being led by some blind evolutionary mindset.
Jason: But they are biased though. And they are controlled, in their brain from first grade onward to believe that we evolved in millions and millions of years. And they surely don't get any promotions when they step up and say, "Yeah, I believe that God created everything." They surely don't get any accolades for that.
Dan: Ok, so you're saying it's wrong for a person to be brain-washed that we evolved for millions of years from childhood, but it's not wrong for a child in Sunday School to be brain-washed that we were created by [what it says in] the Book of Genesis. What makes believers exempt from error in the same way that you think scientists are full of error? What makes you so special in your own understanding and your own biases? 'Cause you just happened to want to pick the right religion and you don't like the implications of evolution? Why? Are you talking scientifically here, or are you more of an ideologue who wants to make a rhetorical point? You have no scientific evidence for creation. What creationists do is spend all their time bashing evolution.
Jason: That's not true. Maybe in the 1800s or something, but . . .
Dan: Even today. Read Henry Morris. Read Duane Gish.
Jason: I've read [some of] them. I have their books on the shelf right here.
Dan: Well read them. The Fossils Say No! What they're pretending is if you could somehow demolish evolution, that would make creationism win by default, without having to actually provide a case for creationism. They come to creationism a priori. They come to it as true, regardless, and the way they think they can win the fight is by destroying evolution. Suppose they did. Suppose they destroyed evolution completely. They can't, but suppose they did. Now, where's their case? Where's their science for their Book of Genesis? They have nothing. And you have to admit there is nothing. There's no experiments, there's no observational records, there's no data that's being kept. All you have is a belief of something that was taught to you in Sunday school.
Jason: Well one instance of some proof for the Biblical accounts--and all they can do is try and prove, or argue, that the Biblical accounts happened--one is . . . usually atheists or evolutionists will agree that there were worldwide, um, small localized floods all over the world. That's how they'll describe sea shells up on the highest mountains and such, and a worldwide flood describes that perfectly too. It's an elementary example, but it's just as much science as it is, as saying there's a bunch of small floods over millions of years.
Dan: Well yeah, of course there were localized floods. My own American Indians [ancestors] had their own flood myths.
Jason: Yeah, it's pretty interesting that the Chinese had a flood story that they took away . . . You know the Chinese have been known as an exclusive culture, all by themselves up there for a long time, and their very characters . . . I read a book called The Discovery of Genesis, and it showed how the events of the Garden of Eden and the flood were actually in their Chinese characters
Dan: Well that's not surprising. You find all sorts of similarities among human cultures because of the way our human nature values certain things. And we've all had similar experiences, so it's not surprising that you'll find different religions that have different echoes of similar themes.
Jason: Yeah, but the word "tempter," for instance, showed a person in a garden behind these two trees, uh, just the . . . like the imagery that was used to communicate these words . . . The word "boat," about Noah and a little boat object and the people in it, it's just, it's too obvious that it relates directly back from the flood.
Dan: It's too obvious? Just like those prophecies you quoted me are too obvious? When actually, when you scratch beneath the surface . . . I'm not ruling out what you're saying, but let's look at it. Let's . . . You know, I used to preach the gospel with such conviction, and then I would go scratch beneath the surface and it was painful to realize, "Oops, I'm exaggerating here. Oops, I'm telling everybody else that they're deceived, but what about myself?"
Jason: I strive pretty hard to stick as closely as I can to the Bible. I mean, I have heard lots of people exaggerate, or even add to the Bible, or apply it incorrectly, but I think it's wise to stay as closely as I can, and take little small steps out from it.
Dan: But that's what everybody says. In the Bible, I mean, in the Book of Genesis, you're talking about the trees in the Garden of Eden . . .
Dan: In Genesis chapter one, the trees were created before humans, but in Genesis chapter two, the trees were created after humans. There's two different creation stories in the Book of Genesis, and those very trees that Eve was supposedly standing behind, or the serpent . . . and besides, it wasn't a serpent. Genesis does not say it was a serpent. If you're going to stick with the Book of Genesis . . . uh, excuse me, it does say it's a serpent. It doesn't say that it's the devil.
Dan: It says that it's the nachash, if you know the Hebrew word. And so the Book of Genesis has these two contradictory creation stories, that cannot be reconciled and yet we're supposed to pretend that this is allowed to stand as a scientific account of the origin of [humanity.]
Jason: It's funny that you mention that. I just got that question in my forum yesterday, and I'm going to get to that. I have the answer to it, but I just need to do a little more research to go ahead and put it right.
Dan: Yeah, and you think in advance that there must be an answer to this, right? Don't you see how you are committed in advance? With your kind of thinking--I'm trying to be ad hominem here, but I used to be like you--but the way I used to think, I was actually blind to the possibility that the Bible had contradictions, because I would not allow myself to see what was before my very eyes. The Bible is discrepant and contradictory, and yet if you go into it with the mindset that there must be an answer, and "I'll get back to you and find it for you," well then of course you're going to find something. I mean, we could all find . . .
Jason: Absolutely. Absolutely, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the answers I find are contrived, or they're wrong. I believe, since the prophecies I've seen in the Bible, since the experiences in my life, and God's power and the human body and creation and just so many phenomenal things . . .
Dan: But you keep saying the prophecies, but you haven't given me a good example of a prophecy yet. You keep saying this, but you don't fess up. You don't actually give us the meat that we're asking for.
Jason: Probably the most incredible prophecy in the Bible is . . . And I was trying to get to this one eventually, and [we] might as well tackle it now, is the one in Daniel, when he predicts the exact day that Jesus will walk into Jerusalem. Have you, are you familiar with that one?
Dan: Yeah I know all about that. Tell me the verse again.
Jason: I believe it's Daniel 9:24-26.
Dan: And does he mention Jesus?
Jason: He mentions the "messiah, the king."
Dan: Ok, now what, does he say the exact day, is it a Tuesday, is it a March 3rd or something? Where does he say the day?
Jason: Well, he gives a mathematical prophecy, and uh, I can read it for you. Do you want me to read it?
Dan: I have it right here. Twenty-four through what?
Jason: If you want to get the whole thing, you'd probably need to start with twenty through twenty-six. But when you, if you really just want to get the skinny for the date, you can read it here [9:25-26]. It says: "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince," or Messiah the King, "there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood," or a diaspora, "and till the end of the war desolations are determined."
Dan: Well, that sure looks, that looks kind of bad. I mean, sixty-two weeks? We're only talking about a few years
Jason: Well, that's the idiom, the Jewish idiom, like we have for a week, it's an idiom for a week of years.
Dan: Oh really, where does it say that? How do you prove that?
Jason: Um, I just talked to some Jewish people. It's a tradition.
Dan: Where, but how do they demonstrate that that's a week of years? Where is that demonstrated? This says [?] year . . .
Jason: . . . demonstrated when you realize that it predicts to the exact day that Jesus came into Jerusalem, then you, then it, work backwards from there I suppose.
Dan: "Seventy weeks are decreed." So, seventy years? It says weeks but it means years? So the Bible doesn't mean what it says, and somehow somebody thinks these weeks are, translated into years? Besides, "your people . . ." just ". . . finished the transgression, put and end to sin." [9:24] That hasn't happened. "Bring everlasting righteousness . . . "
Jason: You're right.
Dan: ". . . the most holy place therefore . . . "
Jason: You're right.
Dan: ". . . the time . . ."
Jason: You're right. The key here is to notice that after the sixty-two weeks, Messiah shall be cut off, not for himself. Now that's referring to when Jesus died, of course. And then there's a week of time in there that's an interval that hasn't happened yet. Um, so what have you known about this prophecy? Have you studied it?
Dan: Well, I've read it, I read it briefly, but I have no evidence at all that these weeks refer to years. None at all. I mean, it seems like an after-the-fact interpretation, just the fact that some modern Jews might say that. I would like to know, why didn't they say here, why didn't they use the word "years," which they use in other cases, and why didn't they use the name "Jesus"? Why didn't they say that "this would be the Messiah named Jesus, to rebuild Jerusalem" and all that? Why is it such a vague thing, um, you know . . .
Jason: "The Messiah the King." I really, I don't think anybody else would ever have that title. [Crosstalk.] . . . pretty common idiom. Like the word "century," we just know the word "century" means, what, a hundred. It's not that uncommon to people reading this text at the time. And it talks about the . . ."from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince," so obviously we have to know when this command happened. And we can see this command in Nehemiah 2:1-18. King Artaxerxes says, "and it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes," et cetera, et cetera, it goes on to say . . .
Dan: But he says, he uses the word "year" there, not "weeks."
Jason: That's right, that's right.
Dan: But what about all these week, why don't they say years here in Daniel? Why is he using weeks in Daniel? To me this sounds very suspect. It sounds like somebody has gone back through the Bible and said, "Oh, let's make these weeks into years, and then we can come out kind of close to what we want our Messiah to be born," with no actual talk about Bethlehem or being born of a virgin or any of those things . . .
Jason: Well those things are mentioned in different passages of the Bible. All these things are mentioned.
Dan: Well those were false prophecies, you have to know that. Isaiah 7:14 was a false prophecy, about the virgin, and it was a mistranslation of the Greek Septuagint. [Crosstalk.] You've studied the Bible enough to know that Matthew was working from a mistranslation, and that Isaiah wasn't even talking about the virgin, a virgin woman at all, he was talking about a young woman.
Jason: Yeah, I've read those arguments and . . .
Dan: Well, theyre good arguments, they're correct arguments. It's only Matthew who got it wrong. Whoever wrote the Book of Matthew [was] pretty sloppy in his scholarship. He thought he had hit on something. He wasn't even using the original sources. He was using a Greek translation, and he trusted a Greek translation which turned out to have mistakes in it. Certainly you're not saying that the Septuagint was [a] divinely inspired translation of the Word of God, otherwise it wouldn't have those mistakes in it. And yet, Matthew was working from a flawed book.
Jason: Well, I want to send you to this web site and have you check it out because I've just documented . . . We've kind of skipped around, and we only did about a quarter of my research on this prophecy. But um, I want you to see how it indicates the exact day, March 14th, 445 B.C., that the decree was given, and then the exact day where Jesus came into Jerusalem and proclaimed himself as Messiah, and let people worship him. There's really, there's only one day when he really let people worship, and proclaimed to be [the] Messiah. That was Palm Sunday, right before he died.
Dan: Where does it say that in Daniel 9, that Jesus will enter Jerusalem and be the Messiah? I don't see that anywhere. An "anointed prince . . . seven weeks . . . sixty-two weeks . . . an anointed one shall be cut off, have nothing, and the troops of the prince who has come shall destroy the city." So in other words, Jesus' disciples destroyed Jerusalem? "The troops of the prince shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, [its end shall come with a flood] . . ." So is this part, is this prophesying that Jesus' disciples destroy Jerusalem? If this is Jesus.
Dan: So that looks like a failed prophecy to me right there. "Desolation"? There hasn't been any desolation after, there wasn't any of that. "He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week? And for half of the week . . ." So in other words, he's living on. This messiah is living on past that point. Because when Jesus entered Jerusalem, wasn't that Palm Sunday, the week before he died?
Dan: But now this is talking about the half of the week, and another one week after that. Are these years now or weeks now, what are they?
Jason: "The prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." I was looking up the last thing you said about the people of the prince destroying the city, and it just sounds like you're trying to analyze this with a bias already.
Dan: Bias? I'm trying to look at the words and see what they say. I'm trying to analyze it with a non-bias. I'm trying to actually look at it. You said "weeks," not "years," right?
Dan: But after this messiah supposedly comes in on Palm Sunday, he will make a strong covenant for one week, right? So is that one week or is that a week of years? Which one is that?
Jason: See, actually what that's talking about . . . Which verse are you in?
Dan: Twenty-seven. "He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease."
Jason: See I didn't even mention verse twenty-seven. When you're getting on to that, you're getting on to a totally different time period.
Dan: But it's he, it's saying he. Look at it: "an anointed one shall come, and the troops of the prince, [the] end shall come with a flood, he shall make a strong covenant . . ." Read it in context, Jason, and see what this whole thing's talking about.
Jason: Ok, well let me read it real slowly. Twenty-six. "And after sixty-two weeks Messiah be cut off [which is an idiom for death], but not for himself [he died for everybody else]: and the people of the prince who is to come [he's not the prince to come, he's the . . . "
Dan: Wait a minute, how do you know that? That's the prince before, the verse before that is talking about. "Rebuild . . . "
Jason: No, he already came and he died, he's not going to be the prince to come. [Crosstalk.] The people of the prince to come, who is the Antichrist.
Dan: He is the prince who is to come from the time that this prophecy was supposedly written, right?
Jason: No. No, no. "And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary," and we know that the Romans destroyed it, right? "The end of it shall be with a flood," the diaspora. That's when the Jews were scattered all over the world. "Until the end of the war desolations are determined." Now on to twenty-seven, "then he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." And we have an interval in there, and this is what we're in right now, the Church Interval, and this correlates exactly with Revelation. "And you shall confirm a covenant with many for one week," which is seven years. I'm sure you probably read, have read this in Revelation. The Antichrist has a covenant for seven years, but in the middle of the week, um in the middle, you know, a three and a half year period . . .
Dan: Yeah, but I don't make a jump between one prince and another. I don't see that in the text. It looks to me like creative rewriting or reinterpreting of what you think, you know, in all these weeks and all that, um . . .
Jason: Okay, all right.
Dan: It doesn't look convincing to me, I mean, and I'm, I was a preacher, an ordained minister and I've translated a lot of this. And it looks to me like whoever wrote the New Testament is saying, "Ah, well let's try to make some of these things happen here." And besides, this stuff, this stuff and the end, you have no idea if it's a prophecy that's going to happen or not. An "anointed prince" -- it doesn't say "the Son of God." It doesn't say that he's a deity, it just says an "anointed prince."
Dan: I mean anybody could be anointed. [Crosstalk.] Anybody can be anointed, I mean, Elijah and Moses were anointed.
Jason: The Hebrewism is mashiyach nagiyd, and that's "Messiah the Prince," "Messiah the King." It wasn't just a title used for other people.
Dan: But it doesn't mean deity. It doesn't mean a Son of God. Why doesn't he say, "God will have a son named Jesus born in Bethlehem, and his mother will be named Mary"? Do you know what I mean? Why couldn't it be a prophecy that's really clear to convince? Why all this fuzziness?
Jason: I don't know.
Dan: Well, exactly. You're offering to me evidence that there's a fulfilled prophecy, but when we look at the prophecy itself, we don't really see what you claim . . . You're overlaying it, your Christian theology, on top of this, as if you think this prophecy was somehow fulfilled.
Jason: And I just think you're laying a skeptical bias over this also and . . .
Dan: Well, I'm proud of that. Skepticism is the way to truth. Skepticism is the way to learn if something is true or false. It's better to be skeptical and doubtful than to just be blinded into accepting what theology has handed to you.
Dan: I'm proud of the skepticism, I admit it. Criticism is really the best and only way to learn what's true or false, because you can strip off error that way.
Jason: I mean it's just like, you're looking at a Ford Festiva and going, "No, it's not a Festiva, it's a Ford Festiva." And you're wrong, it's just, it's not a Festiva, it's a Ford Festiva. And, I mean, all it is is semantics, really. And if you want to risk your eternal life on a word that you're not too sure might go one way or the other, it just seems like a foolish thing to do.
Dan: Yes, yes I do, Jason. I'm not afraid of risking my "eternal life." I don't buy this threat, uh, mentality that a lot of Christians have that "you better believe or you're going to be punished." And it doesn't scare me one . . .
Jason: And this isn't my mentality, I mean it's not my words, I'm not telling you something I made up, you know.
Dan: Well, it doesn't bother me. It's like Christians use that all the time, you know: "You're going to risk your eternal life if you don't think the way I do." Fine. If there's a God who wants to send me to Hell for thinking for myself, then let him do it. Let him prove what a macho man he is and send me to Hell. Will that make me worship him any more? Will that make me have any more respect for the integrity of the supposed "Word" of his? No it won't. I'm proud of the skepticism. I'm happy to be a critic. I'm glad that somebody should denounce, and put this very God under the microscope. Don't you see what I'm saying?
Jason: You can just see how though a prophecy that says over four hundred years in advance predicts something to the exact day, you reject just because the wording isn't adequate for you?
Dan: Well, I don't see it as a prophecy. I see the word "weeks" here. And yes, you're right, I reject it because I don't see it as adequate. Besides, if it were, that would be one thing that most, you know, I mean, that would be one of the proofs of a foreknowing god, right?
Dan: And so, and yet the whole world hasn't come to this conclusion. Obviously this is a Jewish, uh, Israelite . . . Daniel was making a prophecy for his own time
Dan: And he didn't say "years," and he didn't say "Jesus, the Son of God," he didn't say "Messiah," so in my book this is a very . . . It's not even a prophecy, but if it is, it's a very weak one and not very convincing. Especially when you have New Testament writers coming along, with the freedom to write what they want, right? And like in the Book of Revelation [to] say, "Oh, well let's tie Daniel and our views together." Of course the writers of the Book of Revelation were familiar with the Old Testament, there were some real scholars back then. So, uh, what I would like to see . . .
Jason: Some of them were, some of them were fishermen too, you know, they weren't . . .
Dan: Yeah, well exactly, I mean they were all trained though in some kind of training. But I'd like to see confirmation of these things happening.
Jason: What do you think about the concepts of--just for argument's sake--I know you said their was no sin, or sin doesn't exist. But, um, sin, let's take the Biblical definition for a moment. What do you think about universal sin? It seems to me that since there are no pockets, there are no time periods, there's no places on the Earth since the beginning of history, recorded history, that have been exempt from sin, from murder, lying, stealing, cheating, you know, sin like that, that would go to prove that there was some kind of unseen unpower that tempting people and causing these people to do these sins.
Dan: [Laughs/Sighs.] Well, that's a, that is a religious bent on human nature, to posit some kind of a force to explain human nature. All species, not just humans, but all species, are engaged in a struggle for survival, all of them are. When you see a cat playing with a mouse before it kills it, that's sin or not? You wouldn't call that sin, you would just call it part of the cat's human nature, right?
Dan: You wouldn't say that the cat was willfully sinning against its cat creator, or something. It's just, it's doing something by instinct which is harmful, and we might even say unnecessarily harmful to this mouse who also has the desire to live, right?
Dan: We see that--we see, you know, callousness and cruelty in nature and we are a part of nature, and part of our human nature, and our survival, has been to combat these other natural forces, and that's how we evolved with these instincts to combat. So, of course, human nature is going to have testosterone-exaggerated aggression. Of course it's going to have those things, and of course there will be human beings who act more in their own self-interest than the interest of the group at large. And religious people might call that a "sin," and those of us who are secular, naturalist, would say, "It's too bad that we're saddled with this nature that we've got, but we couldn't pick it. We couldn't choose it. If we do wish to continue to be rational, moral creatures, then we need to find a way to improve the situation." Certainly the Bible and Christianity hasn't helped, if anything it's made it worse.
Jason: So you're saying it's not a person's fault, it's genetic?
Dan: Well yeah, it is genetics, but it's also the person's fault, because if you commit an action within society, you are the one responsible for those actions, of course. I mean, if you went crazy for some reason, and came and started attacking me for who knows what reason--say you were a religious fanatic and you wanted to bomb my house . . .
Jason: Ok. Which I would never do.
Dan: Of course not. You're one of . . . you have the "true religion," right? Of course not. But if you were to be that way, then I, by nature, would want to protect myself and my family and I would exercise at least a minimal amount of force necessary to stop you. And I would hope that we could make laws, and have systems of self-defense or justice or of enforcement to protect myself from, my interests from your interests. And I don't call that "sin."
Dan: I would say that it's too bad that there's something . . . You know, I mean a lot of criminals are actually ill. I mean there's an actual mental illness that makes . . . A sociopath is actually mentally ill. A sociopath doesn't feel the pain of others, and we can point to the actual physical, chemical, natural causes of these things. Still, we should put them in jail or put them in a mental hospital. We need to protect the rest of us, but we shouldn't paint human beings with some kind of a tainted brush that we have some demonic or evil on us in some way. Otherwise, how do we improve? What hope is there unless we can work around that?
Jason: Yeah, but why would conviction evolve? You know, you do something wrong and you feel bad about it. If we're just concerned about our own well-being and living and success and reproducing, why would we want or need to have conviction evolve?
Dan: Well see, now you're asking a good naturalistic question, and that's a healthy question. Sociobiologists are asking questions like this all the time. It makes sense that, if we, as natural human beings, value our own individuality and by extension, our own species, we put value on it because of . . . Because what is value? Value is something that you want, and we want our lives to continue. Therefore, it's obvious to see that with your own family members, your brothers, your sisters, your children, they have so much of the same genetic material that you do, by protecting your own family members, well, [?] my goodness we have this instinct within us to protect our genetic, our genetic investment in the future. Our cousins are a little further away, but they're still a part of our species. Our next door neighbors are much further away genetically, but they're still part of our species. So that instinct to protect our genetics and our close genetics can be extended to the rest of the world as well. And, uh, feelings are feelings. They didn't come from outside the human race, whatever they are.
Jason: Ok, I just thought I needed to ask you about that one.
Dan: Well there's natural answers, or at least potential natural answers, to the questions without a knee-jerk religious answer [?].
Jason: That's very true. I've found that for every spiritual or religious answer there is to something, there's always an earthly or normal answer also.
Dan: What do you mean "spiritual"? What does that word mean?
Jason: Oh, for instance, atheists hate to hear the argument that God did it. They want to hear proof, they want scientific proof. But um, for every . . . God put the moon in the sky, God makes the . . .
Dan: But you used the word "spirit" -- "spiritual." What does that word mean? "Spiritual."
Jason: What does "spiritual" mean?
Dan: Yeah, the word itself. What are you talking about when you use the word "spirit" and "spiritual"?
Jason: It's related to God and the spirit.
Dan: But what does "spirit" mean? What is it?
Jason: Uh, spirit would be something . . . There's the Holy Spirit, that's part of the Trinity.
Dan: But what is the Holy Spirit? What is the thing that you are describing?
Jason: Uh, the spirit is just part of . . . Yeah, that's a good question. It's not easy to describe the spirit since we don't see the spirit. Um, from the God's word I guess we know about the spirit. The same thing with God.
Dan: But what do we know about? what is it that we are knowing about when you use the word "spirit"? What is the thing that goes to that label?
Jason: Well when I say "spirit," there's all kind of spirits. There would be evil spirits, there would be good spirits . . .
Dan: What do you mean "spirits"? What? What is it? You mean it's like a little gremlin with black hair? What are you talking about when you use the word "spirit"?
Jason: Well, there's the spirits, the angels that fell from Heaven that are now spirits because we can't see them. Um, that would be one spirit.
Dan: But you're not defining what . . . You're giving me examples of "spirits," but I'm asking you [for] a definition of the word "spirit" and "spiritual," not examples.
Jason: If I had to define the word "spirit," I would just say, something that cannot be seen that, um, where there are good or bad, whether they be good or bad, um, basically someone to that effect.
Dan: [Laughs.] So it's something that cannot be seen? Some-thing? Do you mean a physical thing? You use the word "thing."
Jason: Thing or entity maybe.
Dan: Entity? Ok, an entity of what? You know, like a basketball, or an ice cream cone? You know what? When you use the word "spirit"--I used to preach that word all the time, but you know what?--the word "spirit" has no definition, except in terms of what it's not. It's intangible, it's non-corporeal. The word "spirit" has never been defined, and yet you're using an undefined word that even you admit has no comprehensible definition. You're using it to a natural person like me as if it makes any kind of sense. I reject that word. That word has no meaningful reference in the real world to me. So if you use it in an argument, it is . . . you have a non-argument, unless you define the word "spirit" in a coherent way.
Jason: Well I can tell that you've come across this before and, um, what we're doing here . . . Same thing with trying to describe "God," you know. God is clearly above our thoughts and our minds.
Dan: Says who?
Jason: So all we can do is describe God. [Dan laughs.] You can't necessarily define God, but we can describe him. You can compare him to things that we know. Um, does that make sense?
Dan: No, it doesn't make sense at all. I mean, why do you say that he's "above"? Why don't you say he's "below"? I mean, where do you get these definitions?
Jason: It's from the Bible.
Dan: Yeah, and why is the Bible true? Because God wrote it, right? You see, it's a circular argument. What if I say, "I don't trust the Bible?" What if I say that? Using my own mind, I look at it, I study it, I read the original language. What if say, "They can't define this word and so I'm not going to hold it in much regard."? I'll look at it and there might be something in it, but don't you see the circularity of your thinking? You think there actually is a God because the Bible tells you there is a God, and you know the Bible is God's word because God wrote the Bible. It's a circular thing. You're wanting to believe something that you just want to believe.
Jason: Well there's more reasons that I believe besides what you just mentioned.
Dan: Like prophecies, for instance?
Jason: Prophecies. There's experiential knowledge, um . . .
Dan: Experiential knowledge?
Dan: What? You mean you know God personally?
Jason: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dan: Has he talked to you?
Jason: Yeah, yeah.
Dan: He does? Is he like a baritone or a tenor, or what?
Dan: He talks to you, personally?
Jason: Yeah. I ask God questions and he gives me directions. He gives me answers.
Dan: Well what does his voice sound like?
Jason: Um, I feel, I . . . since you mocked other points and things, [Laughs.] I don't think this is going anywhere besides . . .
Dan: Of course it is, I'm . . .
Jason: . . . where you're going to mock it.
Dan: I'm not mocking it. Don't be so sensitive. We're trying to get at truth here. If . . . Anybody who says that "God" tells them something . . . You know, "God" tells people all sorts of things, right? And people say they talk to "God," or they talk to the Virgin Mary, or they talk to Napoleon, or Elvis Presley . . . How do you know that you are not equally deceived by this idea that "God" is talking to you?
Jason: I guess it kind of sounds like a conscience. Like before I was trying to get to the point where your conscience couldn't have just evolved. That conscience is put into the heart and mind by God, and now that's basically . . . that's what his voice sounds like. It sounds like my conscience. I ask from God, "Should I do this?" And then God tells me, no or yes, or maybe, or this or that.
Dan: Does he use English? Like he would use the word no, "n-o," and yes, "y-e-s"?
Jason: Yeah when I speak to God, he uses English.
Dan: Oh he does? So you know he speaks English. So you're actually hearing a voice? Is it a high-pitched voice or a low-pitched voice, or what?
Jason: It's not an audible voice. It's just my conscience. It's just in my mind.
Dan: So it's like when your mind is thinking a thought?
Jason: Sort of.
Dan: Like you're having a dream or something? So how do you know the difference between this supposed voice of "God," and just some other creative thoughts in your own mind that you're making up? Don't you agree that a lot of Christians, and a lot of religious people, just make up what they think God is telling them? How do you know that you're special and you're not just making it up?
Jason: Well, to answer your first question, um, how do I know this is God's voice? I know that it's his voice because it corresponds with his Word. Now if God tells me, if I think God tells me to go murder someone or something then I can look in his Word and go, no, this isn't it because God says don't kill here.
Dan: So if God tells you to dash . . . happy to be dashing babies against the stones [Psalm 137:9], then that isn't his voice, right?
Jason: That was a specific command for the Israelites, remember.
Dan: But you said you would confirm it with God's Word. If God told . . .
Jason: In context.
Dan: If God told them to be happy to kill innocent children, and then if God told you to be happy to kill innocent children, you could use the Bible to confirm that that was indeed God's voice, according to your logic.
Jason: If I was an Israelite several thousand years ago, then, yes.
Dan: So . . . so we should throw out those parts of the Bible that were written only to them. The entire Bible was written to people thousands of years ago.
Jason: Yeah, and I wouldn't throw out any of it. You know it's got incredible stories and accounts in the Bible that are . . . true.
Dan: Well then what part of the Bible do you use to confirm whether or not God is talking to you? When Jesus said that the . . . Suppose you heard a voice that said, "To be a good Christian you should castrate yourself." Suppose you heard that voice. Men have heard that voice, actually. Origen, an early church father heard that voice, and he actually took a knife to himself and castrated himself. And then he went to the Bible and, in fact, found a verse of Jesus who was saying there were certain men who have become "eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake; he that is able to receive it, let him receive it." [Matthew 19:11-12] He was saying that to his own followers, his own disciples, presumably to Origen and to you. Would you take that as a voice of God that you should therefore castrate yourself because Jesus said that "he that is able to receive it, let him receive it"?
Jason: Uh, that specific thing, I would try and confirm it. I would probably . . .
Dan: Why, why? Why would you try to confirm it? Why not just believe what God tells you? Because . . .
Jason: I probably would then. Then, yeah.
Dan: Because, [Laughs.] because you don't want to castrate yourself, right? You're too smart for that.
Jason: Well if God's word says it, and God tell me specifically then, um . . .
Dan: Then you would do it?
Jason: . . . I suppose it was for me to do.
Dan: And what if God told you to kill me, would you do it?
Dan: [In] the Old Testament, God told people to kill all the time, you know that.
Jason: Yeah, I know, I know.
Dan: So what if God told you to kill me. You would disobey Him?
Jason: Yeah, this, we had this . . . The answer to this question, and you're not going to like it, is that God wouldn't tell me to kill you.
Dan: How do you know that?
Jason: Because I know God.
Dan: How do you know that? He told [people] to kill other people all through the Bible.
Jason: And there were reasons and I've given you a reason for every situation you brought up.
Dan: What if God told you that I am an evil person, and I'm demonically possessed, and you need to kill me. And that's the same reason he gave in the Bible, right? Would you obey . . . ?
Dan: . . . God's word or wouldn't you? You would disobey God then?
Jason: The only answer I have is God would not tell me to do that.
Dan: So you know the mind of God better than God does?
Jason: I know the mind of God, maybe, better than you do.
Dan: [Laughs, Jason laughs.] Well I don't think you know the Bible better than I do, but . . .
Jason: I'm not saying that I know better, I'm just playing.
Dan: But you see my point, right?
Dan: You, you like a lot of Christians, think somehow you are special and you know God's voice, but all these others, well, they're just not looking at it right, or they're just not mature enough, or they're just not coming at it with the right spirit of humility. But you think somehow you, Jason--whats your last name?--you somehow think that you have somehow been blessed with the right way of seeing and interpreting and whatever God tells you, you're going to know it . . . Of course, out of the other side of your mouth you're going to admit that you're a sinner and imperfect. But somehow you think you have this special way of knowing what the Bible says and what God thinks when other people, who disagree with you, would make the exact same claim.
Dan: And they would say that God has told them to kill.
Jason: Yeah I know. I think we see a lot of this in the Islam culture right now, obviously, with the 9-11 thing and the terrorists.
Jason: And I think that's just a good example of bad religion. Of a somebody worshipping something that's not quite God.
Dan: But what you say is bad . . .
Jason: They've been hearing a lot of voices in their head that aren't from God.
Dan: You're saying it's bad because you don't like killing, but the God of the Old Testament loved killing. He ordered, he commanded, he committed killing, all for, all for . . .
Jason: Naw, I don't think so. I think that's a bad description of God. I mean, I think from the very very beginning, God showed us how to be redeemed. Um, Adam and Eve covered themselves with some figs and he killed an animal [and] covered them with the skin, because without the shedding of blood, there's no remission. And then he instituted the sacrifices, telling them about how one day there will be another sacrifice that takes away all the sins. And that was passed on to Cain and to Abel and we see Abel sacrificing correctly. You know God doesn't love killing, God loves redeeming, but uh, people sin. The demons came down and did what they did. God had to do what he did in order to make things the way that they are.
Dan: So when the man was picking up the sticks on the Sabbath, probably--he was probably picking up sticks to build a fire, that's why they picked up sticks--and the people found him outside the camp--this is in Numbers [15:32-36]--they said, "What should we do? he was working on the Sabbath." So they took him to Moses, and Moses said, "Well, according to the command of God, this man should be killed." So the people took that man outside, and they stoned him to death in order to fulfill the command in the Ten Commandments. God's command, [which] was carried out by his own people, which was approved of and not denounced, was to kill a man for trying to pick up some kindling wood for his family. That, in my mind, is brutality. That is a love of killing. In order to stick with some kind of a holy god, who doesn't have any sense to know that sometimes your family needs to eat . . . that should be denounced Jason, and you should join me in denouncing that kind of brutality and the kind of god that would endorse such action.
Jason: I mean, sometimes your family needs to eat? Have you ever skipped a meal for a day?
Dan: [Sighs.] You're missing my point here. The Bible is filled with instances of God either commanding, or committing, or condoning, killing. You know the story of Korah don't you, in the Old Testament?
Jason: Well, I don't think . . . I haven't responded to the one you just said. I mean, and I like to respond to these things because you obviously have a picture of God that is kind of a . . .
Dan: It comes out of the Bible.
Jason: That, in my opinion, is not a very good description of what he is or how he is doing things.
Dan: Well then, explain what I just talked to you about, picking up sticks and being stoned to death by God's people.
Jason: I believe that things . . . And here's another one, maybe, when the, I think his name was Uzzah, he grabbed the ark of the covenant as it was about to fall, and it was said that no one could touch the ark of the covenant or they would die. [Numgbers 4:15] And, uh, they weren't carrying it properly either, so it fell. And um, God killed him. [II Samuel 6:6-8] And some of the skeptics could say, "Why would God kill? God is not a loving god. I hate God." But um, you know there's a couple things you need to know. One, God's laws are to be followed. Two, a sin is depravity. And most people don't understand the depth or the depravity of sin, that think that God's laws are, ah, they're kind of like suggestions, they're not really laws. And I also think they teach us a lesson about how God designs the Sabbath, how God's holy, and ultimately, death, for someone who believes in God, is not a punishment. Death is just, is uh, glorification. It means going to Heaven, it means leaving this Earth, it's not the end-all, be-all of life, it's not a bad thing necessarily.
Dan: So basically you're proving my point.
Dan: Your explanation basically proves my point. It's up to me to decide whether I find this admirable or despicable, and I find it despicable. Any god who demands to be worshipped . . . I mean, what if I were to stand up and say, "Jason, worship me and do what I say, or else I'm going to kill you"? You would have me committed, wouldn't you?
Jason: You don't understand the therapeutic, dichotomous, divine results of your worship? I don't know if you ever worshipped God before, but it's just a, as a release just to praise God, to sing, to throw your hands up, and when you're done with that you feel fantastic.
Dan: So people are supposed to die and be killed so that Jason can feel fantastic with his hands raised?
Jason: No, we're talking about worship now and . . .
Dan: Well that's the point. God wants to be worshipped on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was set aside as a day to worship God, and this guy broke the Sabbath by picking up sticks to feed his family, or to warm his house, or whatever, and so since God's ego was offended because he wasn't properly being worshipped, this guy had to die by stoning. That is despicable. I'm sorry, you can paint it any way you like, but in my book, that is just brutality and any Saddam Hussein, or any other despotic dictator who wants to prove his power by force, and by intimidation and by killing, needs to be soundly renounced. And you should join me in renouncing that god.
Jason: How could you think that you would . . . Let's say that you . . . How would you think you know more than God?
Dan: [Laughs.] Well, how does God think he knows more than me? I mean, what a silly question. The whole point is that I do know enough about this god--as described in Bible--I know enough about him to make an informed decision.
Jason: No, what I was saying, what I'm meaning is that you say this was evil and wrong for him to do this, so you're making a judgment on God, and what I'm saying is if there is an omnipotent being, who knows everything, who is everywhere at once, then why can't this being do this act in order for the greater good, in order to fulfill his purpose?
Dan: Yeah, and the greater good is his glory, right? What if Saddam Hussein . . .
Jason: Well, it's a triple purpose, you know. Giving God glory and praise is obedient, it obeys Him, and you get blessings for doing it, and in turn there's a therapeutic and a blessing that you get, a value.
Dan: Well, Saddam Hussein could use the exact same argument.
Jason: Well, Saddam Hussein is not God, and we're not talking about human, we're talking about God.
Dan: But we're using the same . . . He could say, "I have my reasons. I'm going to kill the dissenters. I have my reasons because I need to be respected, and it's good for you people to respect me." I don't buy that. I don't buy if a dictator, no matter how powerful he is, if a dictator decrees that somehow his way is the right way and he knows more than I do, [and] I need to obey him like a slave, I don't buy that, Jason. I'm smarter than that. I deserve better than that. I am better than that, and I am nicer than that God, and so are you. Don't you hear the message I'm trying to point . . .? You closed your mind off to a slaving kind of obedience to this dictator that you think is wonderful, who has the power to kill you and smash you out, and you have redefined killing and brutality as a good thing.
Jason: You've thrown absolute truth out the window to the point where there's no sin and anything, anything can be justified. Somebody could murder somebody, and if their parents taught it was ok then, to Dan Barker, it was ok.
Dan: I never said that.
Jason: They don't have absolute truth. They don't know what sin is. There is no sin.
Dan: I never said that.
Jason: You justify the holocaust. You've justified apartheid.
Dan: Why do you think I'm saying that, Jason? I never said those things.
Jason: Because you have justified every horrible sin if you say there is no absolute truth outside of humankind.
Dan: No I don't, I don't say that. That's your caricature of what an atheist says. I never say that.
Jason: There's got to be some truth outside of humankind, and you don't believe there is any.
Dan: I, I do believe there is truth, with a lowercase 't,' "truth." Truth is not some reified, deified concept, with a capital 'T' that somehow exists out there that we're searching for. Truth is simply a label for a concept that statements either correspond with reality or they don't. And, morality is simply the avoidance of unnecessary harm. And if I use the simple tools of morality, that we all know, I apply those tools to the character of . . .
Jason: Why do we all know? And who is "we"?
Dan: Because we avoid pain. Human beings are natural creatures that want to avoid pain, and want to continue our existence. We all know that. Unless you're mentally ill, [then] you don't know that. But, you know that all human beings want to avoid pain and avoid harm, and the want to their survival. We all know that, right?
Jason: I think that we may all agree on those things, maybe. Maybe.
Dan: Well, unless you're mentally ill in some way. I mean, sociopaths and other types of sick people.
Jason: But that's a really really small thing to agree upon. We're talking about agreeing on all kinds of laws that protect people, and love people, and human rights.
Dan: But they're all based on that. They're all based on the avoidance of unnecessary harm. Every single one of those laws is based on minimizing harm to human beings in some ways. There is no other principle. It's either harmful or it isn't. It's either something to be avoided or it isn't. It either enhances your survival, or it doesn't. It all boils down to . . . Basically, morality and ethics boil down to harm. And when I apply that, which you and I agree on, when I apply that to the God of the Bible, I see that he is not moral. He is not trying to avoid unnecessary harm. He's trying to create harm. He's trying to threaten. He's trying to be a bully. He's trying to intimidate. He's trying to shut mouths. He's trying . . .
Jason: You've already given examples of people who don't agree with the thing that you and I have just agreed on. Saddam Hussein is one of them. People do not agree on these things.
Dan: Well, but most of us do, fortunately, and we have laws, and systems of self-defense, and systems of enforcement. Most of us are healthy. We're not all Hitlers. I mean there are going to be, in our species, people who have something wrong with them, like Saddam Hussein. And the rest of us better well try to make sure we minimize that kind of harm in the world.
Jason: So, what should we do with him? I mean, he, to him, he's right. To him, he's moral.
Dan: Yeah, but he's not right according to human morality. He's causing unnecessary harm, but he is . . .
Jason: Human morality is just the majority opinion. A majority opinion changes
Dan: No, that's not right. I never said that. Human morality is the avoidance, is the minimizing of harm, the avoidance of harm. That's what morality is. It's not some cultural thing. I mean, of course there can be moral codes that are irrelevant to harm, like what kind of clothes you should wear, but we're talking about actual things that matter, that cause harm or enhance human life.
Jason: I'm saying, in some places like Indonesia, or the islands of Indonesia, it's ok to eat people. Now is that ok?
Dan: Well, uh, no. Generally it's not ok, and we should stop that, and we should try to minimize that if we are caring people.
Jason: And why is not, why isn't it ok?
Dan: Because it causes unnecessary harm. That's pretty simple, isn't it? It causes harm that is not necessary. There might be a case to be made for an extreme, and we don't live our lives in extreme cases, but . . . There's no absolute rule that it's always wrong to kill and cannibalize, but in general, since there are ways to avoid the harm, a moral person is going to take the way to avoid the harm. If you don't take that way, then you're an im-moral person, like Saddam Hussein. That's a pretty basic principle of ethics.
Jason: It just seems that you're walking a real slippery slope if you're trying to impose your ethics, and your definition of morality on other people and say, "This is what morality is. This should be obeyed." You sound basically like the God of the Bible, but you have become that person.
Dan: No, it's not at all what I'm saying. I'm, I'm, I mean I couldn't . . . Don't insult me by comparing me with that brutal guy in the Bible. Those of us who consider ourselves to be moral, we don't have absolute rules. Sometimes it is wrong to lie, and sometimes it is right to tell a lie. And, sometimes it's wrong to kill, most of the time it's wrong to kill because there's other ways, there's a way of minimizing the harm [in] other ways. Once in a while, in self-defense, it might be justifiable to kill. Ok, I'm not saying there are absolute rules that must always be followed. We use our minds, we assess the situation, we try to pick a path through life that minimizes the harm committed by or to other human beings, and other creatures on this planet. That's ethics, that's morality, and that principle is violated repeatedly by the God of the Bible. I do not respect that God.
Jason: When is it ok to lie?
Dan: Suppose some woman comes to your door. She's bruised and bloody and she's crying, and she says her husband's trying to kill her. So you bring her in, you clean her up, give her a meal, give her a place to stay, and then her deranged husband comes knocking on your front door saying, "Do you know where my wife is?"
Dan: You better lie to that man. If you're a moral person, you should lie to that man. You should not tell him the truth. Telling him the truth would cause risk of more harm.
Jason: Isn't that sentence just contradictory in itself? If you're a moral person you better lie?
Dan: Yes, because lying can sometimes be the most moral thing to do. It's not an absolute thing, sometimes lying is the good moral thing to do.
Jason: You don't think that could be accomplished by saying something else, or giving a non-answer, or not opening the door?
Dan: Well, he asked. He's asking you, "Do you know where my wife is?"
Jason: "It's none of your business."
Dan: Are you going to say "yes"?
Jason: You have a lot of options, I'm saying, besides lying.
Dan: Well you're going to mislead him in some way. You're going to mislead that man because you want to minimize the harm. Telling him a lie would be a good thing to do.
Dan: Humanists and ethical people don't make these absolute rules that you must always do something. You weigh the situation, you analyze it. Usually telling a lie leads to more harm, and usually we should not tell lies, but there are cases in life . . . Even in the Bible there were cases of deception that were used for God's glory. You know, the prostitute, Ray--- . . . What was her name? [Rahab] You know, they lied about her existence, and it was to God's glory and she became one of the ancestors of Jesus. [Joshua 2]
Jason: Yeah, and she's mentioned in the Hall of Faith [Hebrews 11:31], but it's interesting to know that she was not, that her lie was not mentioned in the Hall of Faith. You know, that's been talked about before: how could the same thing have been accomplished if she did not lie? And my feelings are yes, absolutely, you know, God . . .
Dan: Yeah, but you're bas[ically] . . . you're working on the assumption that it's always wrong to tell a lie. Sometimes telling a lie is the right moral thing to do. It might be regrettable, but in the situation, you would want to mislead that husband who's outside your front door. You would wish to mislead him so that he would go away, and telling a lie would not be anything you should be ashamed of. You should lie to his face and be proud of it.
Jason: All right, well listen, I really enjoyed our conversation today. Did you want a minute or two to have some closing statements?
Dan: Um, yeah, just a couple of seconds here. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is an organization of atheists and agnostics, and other types of nonbelievers--we're not all atheists--and many of us are former believers, and a few of us . . . I know more than twenty other former preachers who are [cleared] ordained clergy. We're not just a bunch of angry people who don't like religion, we care about truth, wherever it leads, and if anyone else is interested in knowing more, and if your listeners are questioning their faith and find the way I talk to be somewhat attractive, then I invite you to see our web page at ffrf.org.
Jason: Ok. Well once again, I really appreciate your conversation, and I look forward to talking to you again sometime.
Dan: Thanks for the invite, Jason.
Jason: Yeah, and you're welcome so much, and I'll give you an email.
Dan: Oh, very good.
Jason: And I'll give you a copy of this.
Dan: Oh, I don't need a copy of it.
Dan: That's fine, thanks.
Jason: Have a great day Mr. Barker.
Jason: Ok, bye-bye.