Fish Stories – A Ridiculous Faith


Oh, those silly Christians and their fairy tales. Have you heard the one about the Jonah and the whale (or was that Geppetto)? How about Noah and his menagerie? Or what about that whole resurrection nonsense? Christians have to accede so much myth and balderdash as accompanying baggage to their faith that their claims cannot be taken seriously. I’m certainly glad I’m able to think for myself and be intelligent and logical. Ignorance really must be bliss…

Does any of this sound familiar? I hear and read all the time about the suspended belief that must be part and parcel with a religious faith. Is it the atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers, relativists, et al that hold the sole proprietary claim to fact and logical thought, not to mention science? I hate to recycle quotes from previous posts, but this one comes back to my mind: “show… some scientifically proven evidence… If you could there would be no atheists.” It demonstrates the arrogance that is so part and parcel with atheism; there is absolutely no credence given to the great minds that believe the Bible and have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of real scientific, historical, and logical proof of the truths the Bible proclaims.

I could offer the counter argument, if the original held any validity: “If anyone could show scientifically proven evidence that counters the claims of the Bible, then there would be no Christians.” The argument fails from both directions simply because it ignores the truth about human nature: we are all predisposed to believe things because of what we get from them. By determining the reward one gets from his worldview, we can determine whose “truth” is more believable. The Christian view offers the believer hope for the future as well as today, along with directives for a life that is wholly devoted to others, with the gradual elimination of selfishness. Although it be claimed that this “opium of the people” is designed to give a false hope and solace to people that need it out of their desperation and that they don’t live the life anyhow, the fact remains that what Christianity preaches is the most “profound moral instruction and powerful moral example [Jesus] that anyone ever left.[1] Atheism promotes self: pride in oneself, the abolition of external pressures and motivations, and the hedonistic pursuit of gratification, since this life is the only one we have. In the spirit of Hugh Price Hughes[2], I would suggest that the atheist show me two people who have been saved from their afflictions, weaknesses, and self-destructive behavior by their abandonment of faith or adherence to atheism, and I will bring one hundred who have been saved by their conversion to Christianity.

The atheists view my belief with a mixture of bemusement, contempt, and disbelief (no pun intended!). They cannot imagine how an intelligent, thinking person could believe all of the things professed by the Bible, especially considering that there is absolutely no evidence or scientific basis for much of it (according to the skeptic). Two things immediately spring to mind:

  1. It is the a priori determination that “miracles” and other events that deviate from known science are impossible that drives much of the disdain and ridicule. When one decides from the outset that something cannot happen, then there is little reason to look for proof that it did.[3]
  2. Not only is there a great deal of supporting evidence for the claims of Christianity, these claims actually fit the overall picture of life, history and science as we know it better than any other system of belief, whether religious or scientific.

“If the general picture of an expanding universe and a Big Bang is correct, we must then confront still more difficult questions. What were conditions like at the time of the Big Bang? What happened before that? Was there a tiny universe, devoid of all matter, and then the matter suddenly created from nothing? How does that happen? In many cultures it is customary to answer that God created the universe out of nothing. But this is mere temporizing. If we wish courageously to pursue the question, we must of course ask next where God comes from. And if we decide this to be unanswerable, why not save a step and decide that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question. Or, if we say that God has always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always existed?” – Carl Sagan[4]

I would not argue against this point if there were no other evidence for the existence of God. If we were just looking for someone to praise (or blame) for the universe in general and our lives in particular, then it would certainly “save a step” to avoid the idea of a sentient creator. In reality, however, there are entire libraries of evidence supporting the Christian God, not to mention the attributed Creator of other beliefs. Whether you accept the evidence is another question altogether, but to deny that it exists is the height of wishful ignorance. I am not suggesting that the skeptic should spend even the first iota of time or brainpower on surveying any of this evidence, as long as he is willing to admit that he hasn’t. Do not disdain my beliefs without any investigation into the reasoning behind them. For example, someone could say that men from the future took a time machine to Jerusalem and stole Jesus’ body from the tomb, sparking the formation of a world-changing religion that would somehow serve these same men 3000 years in the future.This sounds outrageous, but I cannot claim that the theory is impossible. There had better be some evidence to back up the claim, however.  Christianity has that evidence in abundance.[5]

A fundamental standard for science is that conclusions are made on the basis of repeatable results. By definition, history (the study or knowledge of past events) cannot repeat the results with which it deals; it can only study the past by using previously established scientific fact or proven methods of discovering the truth. If we decide that the evidence for Christianity is unworthy, then we must be prepared to face the reality of what else must be thrown out with the proverbial bathwater. For example, John Warwick Montgomery says that “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.[6]” This is simply one example out of many.

Skeptics often claim that there are too many inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible for it to be believed. However, there is not one example that doesn’t have a reasonable explanation. They also claim that the stories are too bizarre and fantastic to be real. It seems unbelievable even to the typical Christian that David was told to deliver one hundred Philistine foreskins to King Saul in order to marry his daughter, Michal (1 Samuel 18). Then, to top it off, he doubled the requirement and delivered TWO hundred foreskins. Out of context, it certainly seems to be a fantastic – not to mention distasteful – tale. Within the historical context, the Philistines were at war with the Israelites, and David was Israel’s military leader. Further, circumcision was part of God’s covenant with Israel, and demonstrated Jewish faithfulness, while the Philistines were idolaters that lived in all ways contrary to the moral and religious beliefs of the Israelites. There is also very little chance of taking even one living soldier’s foreskin, much less one hundred. The sum of all this context is that David was asked by Saul to demonstrate his devotion by killing a large number of Israel’s sworn enemies, providing undeniable evidence of the feat, and sending a message to the Philistines at the same time. There was a definite element of psychological warfare present in Saul’s demand. While the whole thing still seems a bit odd, at the very least, taken in context it is not quite so fantastical as some would have you believe.[7] This is true of each and every story in the Bible; taken in context and combined with the application of historical evidence, there is nothing that can be dismissively rejected, much less definitively refuted.

NOTE: This has become a little longer than originally expected, so I am turning it into a two-part post. Part II, The Great Skeptic’s Fish Story…

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FOOTNOTES:
[1] McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, p. 159. 1999. In addition, McDowell offers this quote from John Stuart Mill, the anti-Christian philosopher: “About the life and sayings of Jesus there is a stamp of personal originality combined with profundity of insight in the very first rank of men of sublime genius of whom our species can boast. When this pre-eminent genius is combined with the qualities of probably the greatest moral reformer and martyr to that mission who ever existed upon earth, religion cannot be said to have made a bad choice in pitching upon this man as the ideal representative and guide of humanity; nor even now would it be easy, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract into the concrete than to endeavour to live so that Christ would approve of our life.”
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[2]  From D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe in What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?: “In the 19th century Charles Bradlaugh, a prominent atheist, challenged a Christian man to debate the validity of the claims of Christianity. The Christian was Hugh Price Hughes, an active soul-winner who worked among the poor in the slums of London. Hughes told Bradlaugh he would agree to the debate on one condition.

Hughes said, “I propose to you that we each bring some concrete evidences of the validity of our beliefs in the form of men and women who have been redeemed from the lives of sin and shame by the influence of our teaching. I will bring 100 such men and women, and I challenge you to do the same.”

Hughes then said that if Bradlaugh couldn’t bring 100, then he could bring 20. He finally whittled the number down to one. All Bradlaugh had to do was to find one person whose life was improved by atheism, and Hughes—who would bring 100 people improved by Christ—would agree to debate him. Bradlaugh withdrew!” (As quoted in McDowell, ibid.)
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[3] We see this attitude every day in the news. Something horrible happens, and a suspect is ignored because of the obvious impossibility that he could have done such a thing. Close friends and family are often the least suspecting, partly because they simply don’t want to believe; they will look everywhere for the “real killers,” for example, until they have nowhere to look but at the real perpetrator. It is, in actuality, an obvious improbability, rather than impossibility.
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[4] Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. New York: Ballantine, 1980. p. 212. (As an aside here, I must note that I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to every reader – it is an amazing glimpse at an even more amazing Creation. The depth of information combined with its readability and simplicity make it an exciting and astounding read, even thirty years of scientific discovery later!)
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[5] I realize that I have now twice claimed evidence, without demonstrating it, but I hope to do exactly that on this site in the coming months and maybe even years. I am learning more of it every day, and I hope to pass on that knowledge – along with its source – to my readers.
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[6] As quoted in McDowell, id. p. 35.
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[7] Also, Saul was hoping to enrage the Philistines against David in particular, so that he might be killed, as he was a threat to Saul’s throne. We must remember that the stories in the Bible are representations of historical truths, and not all actions are necessarily condoned, but are simply recorded.
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