K: Brian Holtz, atheist and skeptic of Christianity, has made a list of questions he thinks believers should have the answers to HERE. As you will see, the questions are heavy with polemic, and most of his questions can be answered through articles I have already completed on this web site. The rest of the questions are pretty much useless and boring.That you would consider such questions about your eternal fate "useless and boring" only substantiates my point that "most of these believers seem not to take these beliefs very seriously, insofar as they don't seriously examine [..] the nature of the afterlife that they claim to believe will constitute essentially the entirety of their conscious existence."
H: they don't seriously examine 1) why their beliefs aren't more widely acceptedYou either do or do not have an explanation for why the marketplace of ideas (especially in academia) does not endorse what you claim is an objectively compelling case. Labeling the issue as an "argument from authority" does not excuse you from explaining this fact about the universe.
K: This is in effect an argument from authority, by implying that "more people should believe" if Christianity is actually true.
K: However, I do take the fact that my beliefs arenít more widely accepted seriously, as that has been a prime motivation for my creation of this site.If you ever take it seriously enough to add to your site an explanation of it, please let me know.
K: I donít really think an analysis of what our afterlife will be like is important right now. Rather, I prefer to focus on doing the right things in this world, and I can only hope that my afterlife will be pleasant..Do you have any reasons you could share as to why it's not "important right now" to understand the conditions that will govern well over 99.999999% of your conscious existence?
H: 1. If you believe that the evidence for your god(s) is compelling, how do you explain that it is not accepted by so many otherwise reasonable people?The overwhelming majority of them (including you) can be explained by some combination of the non-rational factors I list here. Most people (and even most atheists) don't have a worldview chosen rationally and without undue influence by such non-rational factors. That's why it's interesting to measure worldview adoption rates among people professionally trained to rationally evaluate worldviews -- namely, philosophers. I have yet to find any statistics on this, but I would expect that a majority of professional philosophers are atheists or agnostics.
K: Firstly, there are quite a few reasonable individuals who do accept the existence of God. Therefore, the question could be turned around against atheists- "if you believe there is no evidence for God, then why do so many otherwise reasonable people believe in Him?"
It's also interesting to consider atheists having documented long-term experience with both sides' arguments who later converted to Christianity purely because of comparing those arguments. Steve Locks has an impressive list of professional Christian deconverts, but I cannot find a verifiably well-versed atheist who's gone over to the other side. It seems that having substantial and verifiable experience with the standard atheist arguments against Christianity makes atheists immune from conversion, whereas being a professional Christian does not confer the analogous immunity.
K: Secondly, there are quite a few reasons for a rational man to unfairly disregard evidence for theism. Bias is an important factor, as most people tend to favor a specific point of view for some reason or another. Pride could be a factor, since a long-time committed atheist may not want to be convinced by "pathetic" apologetics, even if the apologetics is solid."Pride" is of course how Christians try to explain away the existence of apparently reasonable atheists. I have no problem admitting that a reasonable and rational person could (mistakenly) be a Christian, but I've yet to meet a Christian who could admit the existence of such an atheist.
K: Personally, I donít know why atheists donít believe, but it is not my fault that they fail to see the evidence.The more reasonable a Christian seems, the more interested I am in understanding why she is nevertheless a Chrsitian. Christians seem little interested in the reverse understanding.
H: 2. Why do so many people claim that the evidence for some other god(s) is compelling?Actually, it's a rebuttal of your point that atheistic pride explains the denial of the compelling case for Christianity. For example, Islam literally means "submission to God", and so pride cannot explain why a person is a Muslim instead of a Christian.
K: This is another (implied) argument from authority.
K: Of course, bias plays a huge role in this because religious believers naturally want to believe their own religion.So why should I believe that such bias does not explain your own belief?
H: 3. Why doesn't it worry you that belief in your god(s) correlates so highly with parental belief in your god(s)?You can study other religions and get to know people raised outside Christianity. The best antidote to Christianity -- aside from reading the Bible -- is the comparative study of religion. (As you say on your site, "My number one recommendation is not to read the Bible.")
K: Who ever said it didnít worry me? Of course, just because I think it is a concern does not mean I should apostatize to atheism immediately. Unfortunately, I can never know what it is like to be raised in a non-Christian family.
H: 4. What other thesis so important and compelling (e.g. heliocentrism, evolution) defied general consensus for this long?The lack of consensus for Christianity is a fact which my thesis explains and yours apparently does not. Explaining facts is what truth is all about.
K: Once again, another vague attempt at an argument from authority or argumentum ad populum. Consensus is not the important thing- the important thing is the truth (which happens to be on the side of the Christians).
H: 5. In how many years do you expect there will be a consensus for your position as widespread as that supporting (say) heliocentrism?My point is that there is something seriously wrong with your claim that the evidence for Christianity is objectively compelling, because you cannot name any other objectively compelling thesis that defied consensus for so long, and you admit that your thesis will in fact never be able to compel a consensus.
K: There will probably never be a consensus in belief of Christianity. Once again, I must ask "Whatís your point?"
H: 6. Do you think that a reasonable person can only disagree with your conclusion if she is subject to some character flaw or demonic influence?So you deny that a person could reasonably (but mistakenly) be an atheist? (Note that this is a no-win question for you. "No" means your god allows eternal torment merely for reasonable mistakes, while "Yes" makes you seem extremely close-minded.)
K: I doubt demonic influence has anything to do with it- although it is possible that there may be a character flaw, such as bias or pride. However, I am unable to believe that any purely reasonable person can fail to acknowledge that God exists- particularly due to the COSMOLOGICAL argument.
H: 1. Do you think there will ever be any compelling new evidence for your god(s)?You're confusing evidence and arguments. Quantum indeterminacy is old evidence, and no argument based on it could ever compel belief in the divinity of a Hebrew carpenter from a remote Roman protectorate.
K: Well, the evidence is compelling enough already, but I do have a feeling that even more evidence will become available. For example, an up-and-coming argument for the existence of God based on quantum indeterminacy is being formulated and defended.
H: 2. [W]ill there ever be new and scientifically documented miracles by your god(s)?I'll take this as an admission that you recognize that your allegedly "constant" god has now been scared by science into retiring from the miracle business. :-)
K: When the final judgement occurs, Iíd say so. ;)
H: 3. Will there ever be scientific confirmation of the efficacy of prayer to your god(s)?Your god doesn't have to answer prayers "all the time" for their efficacy to be confirmed. If prayers make a difference, that difference is measurable. If prayers make no measurable difference, then reason tells us that prayers don't work.
K: Perhaps. I have heard of a bunch of literature that claims praying can help the healing process. Admittedly, I havenít checked into it, but it is a possibility. However, nobody ever said that God would answer prayers all the time. This seems to be a misunderstanding on the part of Holtz.
H: 4. Will there ever be archeological corroboration of the miracles your holy text?Jericho is of course not a case of objectively compelling scientific corroboration of any miracle. By this standard, you apparently admit that mainstream archaeology textbooks will never report such corroboration.
K: I donít see why not. It has happened before [Jericho], it could happen again.
H: 1. What possible evidence would convert you to a different revelation-based religion, like Zoroastrianism or Sikhism?What if Ahura Mazda started answering every Zoroastrian priest's prayers, and speaking telepathically to every human, and re-arranging the stars and galaxies to spell out his name? If this wouldn't convert you, then your belief is truly unfalsifiable.
:K: Actually, those types of religions barely even hold up as rational possibilities, let alone superior to the Christian worldview.
H: 2. What possible evidence would convert you to atheism?You're again confusing evidence and arguments. What if there were found compelling archaeological evidence that all the relevant revelation-based religions were false or fraudulent?
K: First of all, atheists would need to refute the COSMOLOGICAL and TELEOLOGICAL (upcoming) arguments, as well as the MORALITY argument
K: (as I am quite convinced objective morality does exist).I agree that completely objective morality cannot exist. This in fact implies that your god cannot objectively be considered to be moral, but that's another topic.
H: 3. Is your belief in god(s) unfalsifiable?And yet you have not described any possible empirical evidence that could falsify your belief.
K: Before I get to the questions, I must address a statement made by Holtz. He claims that theists have continually used "God-of-the-gaps". For a correction of his simplistic use of the term, see my article HERE.Your article does not address a single one of the twenty natural phenomena that used to be attributed to divine intervention, nor do you dispute that "in the past, your god was used to explain the gaps caused by the absence of a naturalistic understanding of physics, astronomy, meteorology, agriculture, and physiology. Most of these gaps began closing after 1500 [..]"
K: Holtz continues by postulating a future date (2300 or 3300) in which "[N]o new evidence -- archeological finds, miracles, prayer efficacy, prophecy fulfillment, apocalypse -- for your god(s) has been widely accepted;" [..] I highly doubt that there will not be any new archeological finds that confirm the Biblical account, but it is possible.I am quite confident that archaeology will not produce any finds confirming anything supernatural in the biblical account. Indeed, it would be unfair for your god(s) to provide better evidence to future people while condemning me to eternal torment for rejecting the current evidence as inadequate.
K: Also, the evidence need not be "widely accepted" to be considered evidence. Almost all evidence can be "disputed".Who disputes the evidence that Caesar was assassinated? Who disputes the evidence that Rome defeated Carthage? Who disputes the evidence that Jerusalem was sacked in the first century?
H: b. [T]he origin of life has been thoroughly explained by molecular biology;Despite your embrace of rationality, you seem here to be wishing that humanity does not continue its inexorable progress in explaining biology. Then again, since you are a creationist, you probably do not consider modern biology to be progress.
K: This is seriously doubtful, especially considering the dismal state abiogenesis theories are currently in.
K: Even 1 "boundary condition" that had to be precisely right in order for life to exist would be evidence that the universe was designed. The fact that there are currently more than 1 only add to the strength of the argument.The Teleological proof is undermined by unrelenting progress in reducing the number of those initial parameters and by anthropic arguments for why they should allow the development of life and intelligence.
H: d. [T]he mechanism of human mind and consciousness has been thoroughly explained by neuroscienceThe soul thesis is of course already disproved; the question is merely the extent to which theists still try to find room for god(s) in the shrinking gaps of neuroscience. You are wise to have given up on this.
K: This is possible, but it would go nowhere in disproving God and wouldnít even necessarily disprove the idea of a soul.
H: e. [A]rtificial life and intelligence has been createdAI would further disprove the soul thesis.
K: This is unlikely, but even if artificial life is created, the Argument from Design and Argument from Abiogenesis would not be affected.
H: f. [E]xtraterrestrials have been detected and report disbelief in the supernatural.Intelligent non-angelic beings with no designated saviour would further undermine the Christian notion of original sin and the need for salvation.
K: Which, even if it did happen, would only be an argument from authority
H: If you lived to see all these developments, would you still not abandon belief in your god(s)?The Teleological Argument would by hypothesis have dwindled to just a shadow of the Cosmological Argument, saying that god(s) chose the universe's boundary conditions and then left it alone. The gaps in science have closed to such an extent that wise Christians have abandoned all reliance on those gaps.
K: I would not abandon belief in God based on the previous developments. I would still have a personal experience of Godís presence, with no reason to believe that such an experience was not genuine. In addition, the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments would be just fine
H: 1. If you believe that your holy book made non-trivial prophecies that were later fulfilled, how do you explain the secular scholarly consensus that no such prophecies were actually recorded before the predicted event?There are many scholars who would describe themselves as Christian but who nevertheless deny any such prophecies. The weakness of Christianity's case is underscored by the fact that so many self-described Christians deny the empirical premises of orthodox Christianity.
K: Well, the fact that they are "secular" means that they are not Christian
My question remains unanswered; you've given no explanation. Or would you just give the stock answers of "bias" and "pride"?
H: 2. What single prophecy would you say is the one that should be most impressive to skeptics?You're wise to write off Christianity's traditional apologetic investment in alleged prophecy fulfillment. That Yahweh and Jesus were not able to make even a single famously and unambiguously impressive prophecy is a sure sign of the incompetence of their alleged self-revelation. A competent deity could have arranged multiple unambiguous prophecies each of which would have earned ringing endorsement from mainstream scholars of history.
K: Honestly, I donít know. Prophecy is not my specialty, and personally I feel that there is no need for prophecy in order to defend the Christian worldview.
NATURE OF HELL
H: 1. What is hell like?Since Earth is already unencumbered by the presence of any god(s), your Hell sounds just fine to me.
K: I canít know for sure, but I imagine it will be a lot like existence on Earth, except without the presence of God. Therefore, it won't be a happy place by any means.
H: 2. During my "eternal damnation", will I be able to remember my mortal life as well as I can now?Cool; this implies that Hell would involve no physical (i.e. bodily) torment.
K: Probably, and that will most likely be the most tormenting thing about hell. You will realize that you were given a chance and took the wrong path.
H: 3. Will I be able to remember new things that I think of while in hell?Excellent: an eternity of torment-free intellectual creativity.
K: Probably so.
H: 4. Will your god(s) and devil(s) torment me only by the new experiences they give me, or will they also directly manipulate my memories, personality, emotions, and free will?It's odd that you're not sure about Satan's role in Hell. Most other orthodox Christians seem to believe that the perfect and inerrant revelation of Yahweh and Jesus has included such details. So much for perfect and inerrant revelation... :-)
K: God will not do anything, because his presence will be absent in Hell. In fact, that is the problem in the first place. Lacking Godís presence, life would be miserable. I donít know what Satan will do in hell, but I imagine he will not have much power and will be suffering immensely himself.
H: 5. Will I be able to keep time in any way?Heaven indeed sounds pointless, especially if it's a narcotic stupor of the eternal present.
K: Perhaps, but time in Hell will be as pointless as time in Heaven. Personally, I doubt that there is even a "sense" of time in either Heaven or Hell. You will simply be in a state of the present.
H: 6. Will I have access to any means of recording my thoughts?I guess that would be Satan's doing, since you claim Hell is certified god-free. OK, what's the worst sort of suffering that you think Satan might inflict on me?
K: Perhaps, but all of the pencils will lack an eraser and all of the pens will spill ink, only adding to your eternal suffering.
H: 7. Will your god(s) be aware of any words or thoughts I address to them, or is this outside their omniscience?Good; if Hell consists of net torment for me, then I'll enjoy constantly reminding your god(s) of the immorality of abandoning me to eternal torment simply for rationally evaluating the available evidence.
K: I would imagine that God would hear whatever you might wish to say.
H: 8. Will I be able to communicate with people in heaven or other people in hell?Excellent. A torment-free intellectually creative society full of history's best minds and without any Christians around. Where do I sign up? :-)
K: I doubt that you will be able to communicate with people in heaven, as I imagine the two locations in different "realms". However, you probably will be able to communicate with people in Hell.
H: 10. Will any loved ones I have in heaven be able to remember me? How are they likely to feel about me and my predicament?Given that even most Christians can't stomach defending the idea of eternal torment as a just punishment for the sin of mistaken rationality, I seriously doubt that many of my loved ones would consider it justified.
K: I imagine that loved ones will remember you, although it is possible that they wonít. Of your predicament, they will probably realize that what happened was justified.
NATURE OF HEAVEN
H: 1. What is heaven like?Hmm, the Heaven brochures you've received from your god(s) seem not to have been very detailed... :-)
K: I would imagine that it is the ultimate presence of God and the absence of Satan.
H: 2. During your (presumed) "life everlasting", will you be able to do the things I asked about me doing in Hell?If there is room for intellectual creativity in Heaven, why would anyone pursue it? God has all the answers anyway, and intellectual advances over time are meaningless in the narcotic stupor of the eternal present.
K: I would think so.
H: 3. If you are able to communicate with other citizens of heaven, will it only be if they agree to do so?So are boring and annoying and stupid people transmogrified in heaven to not be so, or is everyone else just brainwashed into not caring about such traits in others?
K: UhhhÖ I guess. [..] What is the point of these questions? In heaven everyone is probably quite willing to talk to one another, and everyone regards everyone else as their "equal".
It should be obvious that the point of these questions is to demonstrate that the superficial Christian vision of a blissful heaven involves either self-contradiction or mind-numbing brainwashing.
H: 5. If you are a remarried widower, will your two wives have to share you, or will one of them have less bliss than the other?So after a lifelong exclusive partnership and raising a family together, one's heavenly relationship with a spouse is no different than that with any other person? This of course implies such severe mental surgery on one's personality and identity so as to question whether heaven is happening to the same person one was on Earth.
K: Probably wonít be wives in heaven.
H: 7. If you were an infant or child and get an adult's mind, what determines your personality?Would all these restored personalities be the same? What, if not experience, would differentiate them? Is one's heavenly personality determined more by the pre-birth qualities of one's soul or by one's earthly personality development? Are the personality differences between souls decided in advance by your god(s), or are they random?
K: Probably the personality you would have had if you had not only developed into childhood, but had become a full grown human being.
H: 8. Are some people in heaven still smarter or funnier than others, or is everyone equally intelligent and witty?Who in heaven would be satisfied being less intelligent than the smartest person there? In what sense is personal identity preserved if someone of average intelligence (or below) suddenly is as smart as the greatest genius?
K: Donít know, but certainly nobody will brag about their comedic skills and nobody will insult others for their lack thereof.
Could there even be humor at all in heaven? Won't every possible joke get old after the billionth telling, or will people sit around like Beavis and Butthead, chuckling eternally at the same inanities?
H: 9. Will you understand (or be able to learn) every principle of math and science?So it's possible that some people in heaven could reach the limit of their understanding, and face an eternity of never being able to master e.g. quantum physics? Or will everyone eventually understand everything, and thus face an eternity of having nothing new to learn? (Or will the narcotic stupor of the eternal present make nobody care about understanding anything?)
K: Hope so.
H: 12. Will others in heaven know (or be able to learn) embarrassing things about your life?One doesn't need to be taken advantage of to feel embarrassed. This is yet another point on which heaven involves either brainwashing or selective amnesia.
K: They will probably be able to know things that I considered embarrassing in my human life, but others would not take advantage of me and I would no longer feel "embarrassment".
H: 13. Will you be able to remember any sinful pleasures of your mortal life?Will the worst moments in heaven be better than the best moments -- the most enlightening, accomplishing, or orgasmic -- on Earth?
K: Probably, but the memory will not bring me any sinful pleasure in itself.
H: 14. Will your memory of your sins be wiped clean, or will you still have shame?Ah, more brainwashing. Will the god(s) wipe away your drool too, or just put a bib on you? :-)
K: Probably there will be memory but God will wipe away our shame.
H: 15. Will you be able to play games (like chess) with other people in heaven? Will you ever lose? Can you ever improve at such pursuits?Who would play chess in Heaven if every game is a stalemate? What's the point of improving your chess game if you never lose anyway? Will you face an eternity of never perfectly mastering the game, or an eternity of having already perfectly mastered the game? (Are you getting the point here that, for beings whose personality structure is shaped by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, an eternity of anything will seem pretty pointless?)
K: Yes, no, yes.
H: 16. Will you be able to take naps, and if so for what duration?If Heaven is so great, why would anyone want to miss a moment of it? Is the trillionth day of being in Heaven as good as the first? Does any aspect of the delightfulness of Heaven diminish or fluctuate over time?
K: Probably there will be sleep, who knows how long?
H: 17. Will people ever have differing opinions, interests, or hobbies?With God there to settle disputes, could people ever disagree over any question of philosophy or history or (former earthly) politics? If there are Democrats in heaven, how happy can they be after finding out they were wrong all their lives? :-)
K: Probably so.
H: 18. Will there be any possible way to create new knowledge or new art?Given the omniscience of your god(s), why would anyone try to discover anything instead of just asking for the answer?
JUSTNESS OF HELL
H: 1. If, when my first 100 trillion years of torment are over, you happen to remember that a basically good person is just beginning his torture essentially because he used his divine given gift of reason, will you think "right on! you and Hitler are getting what you deserved!"?"All he could"? Thomas got to examine a reincarnated man's wounds, but all I get are error-prone manuscripts of decades-old hearsay about a Torah-thumping Hebrew carpenter who can reasonably be inferred to have been a delusional schizophrenic.
K: I will realize that your punishment is just and fair, and that God did all He could to rescue you from it.
H: 2. Or will you then even momentarily consider that your god(s) might be less than perfectly just?So if after 100 trillion years of torment I were repentant and your god(s) gave me amnesty, would you really think "Boo! Leave that bastard Holtz to the eternal torment that he deserves!"?
K: I have no reason to suppose that God is unjust now, and I probably wonít while Iím in Heaven.
WHAT IF GOD QUIT
H: What would be your goals and values?But you said above that objective morality is impossible. Why would you care about others having enjoyable lives? Why wouldn't you be completely selfish and hedonistic and take advantage of whomever you could? Or do you admit that it's possible to act admirably without threats or guidance from any god(s)?
K: My goals would be to make otherís lives and mine as enjoyable as possible.
K: A lot of pointless questions, and quite a few emotionally-charged implied arguments, as well as a fair amount of (implied) logical fallacies. I really donít think that these "questions" should be all that troubling to any Christian.If there is anything "pointless" about these questions, it only reflects the weakness of Christianity's evidence and the vacuousness of Christianity's afterlife doctrines. If these questions stir the emotions, it's only because Heaven is incompatible with human nature, and Hell incompatible with human decency. If most Christians are not troubled by the logical implications of their afterlife doctrines, it's probably for the same reasons that children are not troubled by Santa's need to exceed light speed to effect his Christmas deliveries. :-)
I disavow any "implied" argument from authority, and merely note that you don't have an explanation for why your "compelling evidence" for Christianity is in practice so uncompelling.
K: Holtz needs to ask the right questions, which is something he has failed to do.The charge that I don't "ask the right questions" is trivially refuted merely by quoting from my hypertext Human Knowledge: Foundations and Limits: