From the Mailbag From the Mailbag I have never subscribed to Skeptical Review, but I have

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

From the Mailbag From the Mailbag I have never subscribed to Skeptical Review, but I have read one issue. Enclosed is $4 for a subscription. If I have missed any issues that would be included in this subscription, please send them. Do not think me foolish for enclosing cash. If you had been a Christian, I would have sent a federal money order, registered mail, return receipt. (Adam P. Currie, 3519 22nd Street, Meridian, MS 39301.) We recently received our first copy of _The_Skeptical_ Review_. I wasn't sure quite what to expect when I sent off for it and was therefore knocked for a loop when I read it. Several weeks later, I am still impressed. And several weeks and numerous re-readings later, I am still left dazed and reeling by Lindell Mitchell's incredible dismissal of the Amalekite massacre as possibly a calamity but not an atrocity. I have trouble believing anyone could seriously argue as he does--or that his friends and co-religionists are not shocked to hear him put forth such a defense of slaughter. Please send me the 3 booklets mentioned in the newsletter: 1 Laws-Till Debate....... 2.50 1 Jackson-Till Debate.. 2.50 1 Prophecies.................. 2.50 Also please send me all 16 back issues of TSR. Enclosed is a money order. This newsletter deserves a much wider distribution. Good wishes on your continued success! (Elizabeth Dyak, 304 Sunnyland, rear, Pittsburgh, PA 15227.) EDITOR'S NOTE: Ms. Dyak may rest assured that most of Mitchell's colleagues will not be at all shocked at his defense of the Amalekite massacre. The same defense that he made is what they preach to their gullible pulpit audiences. As I was reading Ms. Dyak's letter, a thought occurred to me. Mitchell did indeed admit that the Amale- kite massacre was a "terrible calamity" (Winter 1994, p. 4), so I wonder how he is able to know that it was a calamity in the absence of an objective (absolute) standard of calamity against which he can measure "thoughts, words, and deeds." Please RUSH me a copy of your journal. I am surrounded by literalists... daily letters to the editor in 2 of 3 papers I read. Themes: USA is a Christian nation founded on the Bible.... It is a lie and a myth that there is separation of church/state.... Secular humanism is a religion and is being taught in public schools.... There is only one God, our Lord and Savior.... (N. Z. Cassidy, P. O. Box 72, Fallbrook, CA 92088-0072.) I heard mention of _The_Skeptical_Review_ on a computer BBS, and I think I'd be interested in taking a look. Could you add me to your mailing list? Thanks. (Dave House, P. O Box 111, Essexville, MI 48732-0111.) In the January/February issue of The Humanist, I saw your ad for a quarterly journal refuting Biblical fundamentalism. I have not had the opportunity to see this journal and would very much appreciate it if you would put me on your list for that "free first-year subscription" mentioned in the ad. My own former fundamentalist perceptions not only failed to redress various personal problems in my own life but in many ways exacerbated those problems to the point that I now find myself in prison. Fortunately for me, I have had the past 15 years to reevaluate and sift through much in my life, including those entrenched fundamentalist beliefs and values. I should explain that my former beliefs were no small thing in my former life. I was indoctrinated in fundamentalism since a small child, was reading portions out of the Greek New Testa- ment before I graduated from high school, and then went on for 3 years of theological training at one of the most fundamentalist schools in the nation at that time. Anyway, over those past years I have reformed a good deal of my previous views, including fundamentalism, its position of "literalism," "inspiration," and bibliology in general. So I would very much like to read some of your reflections on similar subjects. Please send that subscription to me at the address below. (Bob Dornbusch, OTF-160255, P.O. Box 5000, Carson City, MI 48811-5000.) Thank you for _The_Skeptical_Review_ Winter 1994. I am very well pleased with it. It is so very very awful that I never got in contact with people like you sooner, like 1979 or any time afterwards. I am still very frightened from what the Bible has done to my poor self since 79. I still kind of believe it, but when you tell me about Abraham and Sarah and Abimelech, I wonder just how many other stupid things in the Bible I've overlooked! Well done, Mr Till! I read your letter over and over front to back. I love it!!! I would love to read your Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled.... I am still unsure of that Holy (unholy) Bible, but please please by no means, don't you dare take me off your subscription list. If all your letters are as great as volume five, number one, winter 1994, then I am going to be on my way to recovery.... (William Kotis, 2199 Kamehameha Highway, Honolulu, HI 96819.) The Arizona Student Atheists would like all of TSR on this disk [enclosed] so that we can distribute some articles to hungry minds. (Erik Mickelson, 9827 Longford Drive, Tucson, AZ 85741-9501.) I just received my first issue of _The_Skeptical_Review_ today. I love it!!! In fact, I was so impressed with it that I would like to order back issues for every other issue ever published. I have been challenged by some fundamentalist (and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense) Christians to investigate the evidence for the alleged physical resurrection of Jesus. They maintain that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that the New Testament is the most historically reliable set of ancient manuscripts we possess today. They also happen to be major fans of Josh McDowell, whom I am sure you are familiar with. Needless to say, I found your publi- cation a refreshing perspective after all of their one-sided tracts and books. And I hope you will publish a transcript of your debate with Norman Geisler. That would be worth its weight in gold to me.... Would you ever be willing to come out to Seattle and do a debate on New Testament reliability, the resurrection, etc.? In a month, we are sponsoring a debate on New Testament reliability between an SPU professor and a professor at the University of Washington. However, both of them claim to be believers of one sort or another. It would be nice to have someone like you for a future debate so that we could have a believer versus a nonbeliever. I also read your response to the letter mentioning computer BBSes. In response (and in gratitude for the free year's subscription), I typed in your article entitled, "No Morality Without the Bible?" and posted it on the Internet. Specifically, I posted it to the Usenet newsgroups alt.atheism and talk.religion.misc. And I gave your address so that people may contact you if they were interested in a subscription. (Jeffery J. Lowder, Seattle Pacific University, SUB Box 1692, Seattle, WA 98119-1997.) EDITOR'S NOTE: I will be happy to debate the issue of the resurrection (or other biblical matters) at Seattle Pacific University if it can be held at a time compatible with my teaching schedule or after I retire in 1995. May I suggest that the student organization invite Josh McDowell to represent the Christian position. After securing his agreement, they may then wish to teach pigs how to fly. Let me play the prophet. The personal computer, probably more than any other single factor, will eventually drive the final nail into the coffin of Bible inerrancy. The 18th and 19th centuries produced enough works in biblical criticism to kill the myth of inerrancy ten times over, but the general public was unaware of the information because it was suppressed. Clergymen never told their congregations about it, and few libraries stocked the books that published it. Whatever was uncomplimentary to Christianity was kept from the sheep. In the information age that we are now living in, the suppression can no longer be sustained. Facts about the Bible's origin, its flagrant plagiarism of pagan beliefs, and its inconsistencies and contradictions now flow freely through computer networks. A revolution in religious thinking is inevitable. Now who will be the first bibliolater to tell me that the "word of God" will live and abide forever? Thanks for the loan of the tapes of your debate with "Buster" Dobbs. You may receive this card first, but the tapes are on their way. I enjoyed the debate but found some parts embarrassing to sit through. In More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell says atheists and agnostics resort to irrational methods of argumentation when they reject the supernatural as a valid explanation of life's mysteries. I felt that Mr. Dobbs worked from the same premise. His position is not far removed at all from a bumper sticker I saw: The Bible said it, I believe it, and that settles it. I'm not equipped to critique the whole debate, but Mr. Dobbs seemed very peeved at your resistance to accepting his generalities as well as your insistence on debating specifics. I have run into the same tactic, i.e., if I can't explain how the universe came to be then that "proves" that the only other available explana- tion is Genesis. I've known people who consider me a satanist because I do not believe in the existence of a monotheistic god. It's hard to negotiate with such a point of view.... (Bill Courtney, 5620 183 SW, Apt. 210, Lynnwood, WA 98037.) I'm sending you something I'm copying from The Workbook on Spiritual Disciplines by Maxie Dunnam. The piece is called "The Cloud of Unknowing" by an anonymous writer. "Silence is not God, nor speaking; fasting is not God, nor feasting; solitude is not God, nor company.... He lies hidden between them and no work of yours can possibly discover Him save only your heart's love. Reason cannot fully know Him for He cannot be thought, possessed or discovered by the mind. But loved He may be and chosen by the artless, affectionate longing of your heart. Choose Him, then, and you will find that your speech has become silent, your silence eloquent, your fasting a feast, your feasting a fast, and so on. Choose God in love... for this blind thrust, this keen shaft of longing love will never miss the mark, God Himself." Mr. Till, I promise to pray for you every day that you may return to the joy of your First Love! (Nikki Kaley, 505 West Washington, Lewistown, IL 61542.) EDITOR'S NOTE: As a former Christian fundamentalist, I can certainly understand Mrs. Kaley's motivation, and I know that she wrote this letter with the best of intentions. However, I hope she will somehow under- stand me when I say that I would much prefer that she attempt a logical response to my arguments rather than that she pray for my return to my "First Love." Something that she probably doesn't realize is that I still to this day have nightmares in which I find myself sitting on the front pew with Bible in hand, waiting for the congregation to finish the hymn that will be my cue to step into the pulpit and start preaching. When I wake up, I experience inexpressible relief from knowing that it was only a dream and that I won't have to stand in the pulpit and say things I know I don't believe as I did back when I was struggling to come to terms with my unbelief. So why would I ever consider returning to something that has left psychological wounds that thirty years have not been long enough to heal? Mrs. Kaley's letter probably came in response to a letter of mine that was published in a local newspaper in which I pointed out parallels in the lives of Jesus and the many pagan savior-gods who were worshiped long before him. Rather than try to disprove my arguments, she chose to ignore them completely, just as if they didn't matter, and to her, of course, they don't matter. Nothing matters except her blind allegiance to a faith system that hasn't a shred of logic in it. All the prayers that she could possibly utter the rest of her life if she did nothing else but pray continuously could ever make me respect that kind of mentality. As for the prayers she is uttering for me, I wish I had a nickle for everyone who has told me he is praying for me. There must be thousands of people out there praying for me at any given moment. So I wonder when we can expect to see any results from all these prayers. God wants all men to be saved: "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour, who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Therefore, if the Bible is truly the infallible word of God, as Mrs. Kaley no doubt believes, then she must agree that God certainly wants Farrell Till to be saved. So I see a dilemma for her when this scripture is considered in conjunction with 1 John 5:14-15: "And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him." Now please notice that this passage does not say that if we ask anything according to God's will, he may hear us and grant it; it flatly says that we can know that he hears it and will give us what we ask. From this, I can only conclude that the New Testament promises that God will hear and grant the prayer of any Christian who asks ANYTHING in accordance with God's will. So since it is obviously God's will that Farrell Till be saved, then why haven't the many prayers on my behalf been answered? I once presented this dilemma to a Baptist preacher who had told me that he was praying for me. His response was that I am not dead yet, so there is still the possibility that I will yet be "saved." I suppose that he is technically right, but if I should die without returning to my former beliefs--and I really don't believe there is even a remote possibility that I will return--would this not constitute logical proof that the Bible is not inerrant? We could even extend the dilemma by noting that the passage in 1 Timothy clearly says that God wants all men to be saved. Since it is the will of God that all men be saved, in order to have all men be saved, one should only have to pray for the salvation of all men to happen. Otherwise, the statement in 1 John 5:14-15 is erroneous. However, the salvation of all men cannot occur without causing other problems for the Bible inerrancy doctrine. The Bible clearly teaches that some men will be lost; in fact, it teaches that most men will be lost (Matt. 7:13-14). If most men will be lost, then obviously all men can't be saved. If all men can't be saved, even though a faithful, believing Christian might pray for all men to be saved, then 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 1 John 5:14-15 cannot both be true statements. This is just one dilemma that Mrs. Kaley will discover when she applies logic to her studies of the Bible. There are many more that I could point out. However, since logic is of no concern to her and those of like persuasion, I don't suppose it will matter to her that she has committed herself to an activity (prayer on my behalf every day) that is illogical. Please remove my name immediately from your mailing list. I am a FIRM believer and NO ONE can take my experiences from me. I'm not interested in your TRASH-- and I have more important things to do in this life than pick the Bible apart. What do you expect to gain from it anyway? Silly! If you don't believe in it--DON'T read it. If you don't like what you hear or see on the air waves (if your wrist isn't broken), turn the dial or switch. You have the option to believe or not. I have no desire to discuss or argue any of your issues. Life is too precious to waste it in being rebellious or critical. I know Christ exists. I've had two personal experiences some years ago-- and no one can change my mind or my love for Him. I shall continue to pray for you. Your paper goes straight in the trash. (Mildred M. Bahn, 636 Pearl Street, Lancaster, PA 17603-5010.) EDITOR'S NOTE: Ho hum, another Christian who has had a "personal experience"! If I had a penny for every Christian who has had a personal experience with Jesus, I could retire a rich man. The only problem, of course, is that "personal experiences" are purely emotional and psychological, so in terms of evidence or proof they are absolutely worthless. Moslems have "personal experiences" and so do Mormons, Hindus, Sikhs, and you name it. If it is a religion, it has its believers who have had personal experiences. If a Moslem should tell Ms. Bahn that he is a FIRM believer in the prophet Mohammed and has had two "personal experiences" that NO ONE can take away from him, so therefore he KNOWS that Mohammed is Allah's prophet, would this mean anything to her? Would she see this testimony of "personal experience" as proof that Islam is God's true religion? Certainly not--yet she expects us to accept her testimony of personal experiences as absolute proof that Christ exists. Of all the arguments that Christians use, the personal-experience one is by far the most idiotic. If I should claim that I have had two "personal experiences" in which God informed me that the Bible is a hoax that Satan perpetrated in order to deceive the world and that NO ONE can take those experiences from me and make me believe that the Bible is God's word, how many Christians would accept this as proof that their view of the Bible is erroneous? None of them would, yet they seem to think that we should accept without question that they have had "personal experiences" that confirm the truth of their belief in Jesus. That anyone would even offer such "evidence" as proof of his faith merely shows that he is incapable of logical reasoning. That is exactly the situation that Ms. Bahn finds herself in. She wonders why we read the Bible if we don't believe it and why we don't just turn the dial or switch when we hear something about it on the air waves. Well, I'll make a deal with Ms. Bahn. If she will get her side to do the same and just not read the books and magazines and see the movies and TV programs they find objectionable rather than trying to ban them everywhere for everyone and if she will get her side to stop trying to force its "Christian-nation" agenda onto our society through the various tactics that Bible fundamentalists are using to influence legislative and judicial decisions, then I will stop publishing _The Skeptical_Review_. Until then, we will continue to publish evidence that clearly shows that people like Ms. Bahn are living in fantasyland. She said that "(l)ife is too precious to waste it in being rebellious or critical," and so what did she do? She sat down and wrote a critical letter that demonstrates a rebellious attitude toward the world's best biblical scholarship. No, we are not laying claim to being the world's best scholarship, but we do claim to have that scholarship on our side. The Bible inerrancy doctrine has been so thoroughly discredited that few serious scholars believe it anymore. Reputable seminaries no longer teach it to their students, and their professors freely admit that the Bible is riddled with myths and legends. In the position that she tries to defend, then, Ms. Bahn has simply demonstrated that she is willing to waste part of her precious life to rebel against what the world's foremost scholars say about biblical origins. In this respect, she puts herself into the position of those who were outraged by Galileo's an- nouncement of a scientific discovery that conflicted with their view of what the Bible taught. Who knows? Maybe some of those who opposed Galileo had had "personal experiences" that made them absolutely certain that the sun revolved around the earth. I will agree with Ms. Bahn in one thing: life is indeed precious. It is much too precious to waste clinging to a faith that had its origin in superstitious times when mystics thought that God routinely talked to them and commanded deeds as ignominious as the murder and rape of children (Num. 31:17-18). We aren't praying for Ms. Bahn, of course, but we do sincerely hope that some day she will come to her senses. I have written a personal letter to inform her that she was receiving _The_Skeptical_Review_ at the request of another subscriber who will be notified that she thinks it is TRASH, so if she should ever attempt to win her friend to Jesus through testimony of her "personal experiences," he just might tell her what he thinks about her personal experiences. I further assured her that her name would be removed from our mailing list, because we can see no need to send TSR to someone who is just going to throw it "straight in the trash." Also, we can see nothing to gain from casting our pearls before swine. Thank you so much for existing! I defected from the Jehovah's Witness cult as a teenager. Most of my family, going back four generations (which is about as far back as the JW's go), belong to that group. I am 27 now and find that there still are ridiculous beliefs left over from them that I have to remove one by one from my brain. While there are many ideas regarding religion that are perhaps unknowable, whether or not the Bible contradicts itself, is not one of them. The following quote, from a J. W. tract, stimulated me to begin a search for the best quality and most valid contradictions: While some may claim the Bible contradicts itself, has anyone ever shown you an actual example? We have never seen one that could withstand scrutiny. True, there may appear to be discrepancies in certain bible accounts. But the problem usually is lack of knowledge regarding details and circumstances of the times (From the tract "Why You Can Trust the Bible"). I am looking for some more quotes like the one above showing the rigid fundamentalist position. For over a year now, I have been compiling contradictions that I hope to put into a small book. I expect your publications and videos will be of great benefit to me. (Darrel Henschell, 3633 East Huntsville Road, Fayetteville, AR 72701.) EDITOR'S NOTE: We are always gratified to receive letters like this one, and we receive them quite often. To know that so many are finding their way out of the absurdities of Bible fundamentalism restores our faith in humanity. It is encouraging to see that at least some who are indoctrinated in Bible fundamentalism as children refuse to let their adult lives be ruled by emotionalism. I just wanted to say that The Skeptcal Review is a brilliant piece of work. You include arguments from both sides which makes your journal stimulating to read. Your exchange with Lindell Mitchell on the Amalekite massacre was very interesting indeed! After you had made a strong and very compelling case for your position, I almost couldn't believe that an intelligent and educated man like Mr. Mitchell went on to defend a total act of barbarism. I gave a copy of your debate to a Lutheran minister I know. After reading your article and Mr. Mitchell's, he said it was "embarrassing." (Jason Munroe, 70 Nottingham Road, Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada, T8A 5L5.)


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank