From the Mailbag
From the Mailbag
The receipt of your two debates and the essay on Biblical prophecies
was timely in that I had over a week off from work between the
holidays. I had more time than usual to read them. I benefited
greatly in reading an articulate and logical person counter the
claims of inerrancy so well as you did. I became annoyed and grieved
by the sarcastic attitude of Bill Jackson. Surely this person
was an embarrassment to the Churches of Christ denomination. His
lack of intelligence and logic was readily apparent by his appalling
writing skills. I analyzed his style of communicating and could
not help coming to the conclusion that logical thinking is all
but foreign to the fundamentalists. A minister of the gospel proclaims
and heralds his message, especially as in a sermon. They are not
comfortable with dialog or being challenged to defend what they
say. They proclaim the gospel and people accept or reject. In
the homiletic style, they have very little need to defend. So
when they enter into a debate, they continue to assert and herald
as if that is enough to convince people. I'm glad you did not
let him off the hook or stoop to his level of sarcasm and vilifying.
Dr. Laws was a more sensible debater, and it is a real shame he
did not continue the debate. I would have loved to read your affirmatives
in addition to the rebuttals that the publication includes. I
agree with you that you tore him up in your rebuttals. There is
no comparison in the logic, scholasticism, or communication skills
between you and Jackson and Laws.
I appreciate your explanations of how to debate. By that I mean
how to formulate an argument into verifiable premises that lead
to a valid conclusion. You repeatedly say it is not enough to
assert; one must have a truthful, verifiable, and sound basis
upon which to assert....
By the way, the subjects of the early stages of the Yahweh religion
from which Judaism evolved and the history of the conflict between
the religions of the Canaanites and the Yahwists greatly interest
me. Similarly, the history of monotheism also interests me. Can
you steer me to some good reading? I have no doubt that you have
thought considerably on these subjects.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Like Mr. Wood, I have often thought that the apologetic
performances of men like Bill Jackson, Jim Laws, and Buster Dobbs
were surely embarrassing to the general membership of their church,
but apparently they aren't. When Bill Jackson died, he was eulogized
as one of the best debaters in the Church of Christ. I think the
reason for this is in something Mr. Wood said in his letter: "(L)ogical
thinking is all but foreign to the fundamentalists." If their
preachers can't think logically, we can hardly expect the general
members to. Books like _Mythology's_Last_Gods:_Yahweh_and
Jesus_ by William Harwood and _Who_Wrote_the_Bible?_
by Elliott Richard Friedman would be useful references to consult
on the evolution of Yahwism.
What a deal! All the _TSR_s in ASCII. Thank you so much for the
offer. Enclosed are 2 HD formatted floppies.
We would like your permission to upload them to various BBSs (computer
bulletin boards) in the area. We are sure you would not mind,
but we just wanted to check first. But if you do have a problem
with that, we will respect your wishes.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the two papers we have received so
far. We sit down and read them to each other, then discuss them.
It is amazing how we were kept so ignorant when we were biblical
William Sierichs, Jr., is funnier than hell. We were rolling.
Hope to see his articles again.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Any article published in _The_Skeptical_Review_
can be copied or reproduced electronically for educational purposes.
We ask only that the names and addresses of the authors and the
source of publication be included so that readers of the materials
will know where to inquire for additional information.
Back in December, my older son did me the favor of installing
American Online in my computer, and I enjoyed romping through
the information exchanges in the religion, ethics and philosophy,
etc. sections in which correspondences were exchanged. Late in
the month my hard drive crashed, so I have been out of contact
since then. I do not recall seeing anything attributable to "The
Mighty McBull" as Matthew C. Bullard implies his nom-de-keyboard
to be. I would be happy to meet his challenge when I get restored
to AOL, if he would let us know in what section he posts his messages.
Your answer to his question, "(W)hat's the story with all
the 'sics'?" was a bit indirect and may have gone over his
head. I would have said, "A sic given in parentheses after
a particular word or phrase in a quote is the publisher's way
of declaring that this is the way it was written by the author
and is not a typographical error and is not the responsibility
of the publisher to correct. It pertains to mispellings [sic,
"misspellings"], misuse of punctuation's [sic, "punctuations"],
wrong worlds [sic, "words"], poor uses to grammar [sic,
"of" not "to"], etc."
It is strange that a "good Christian," such as he, would
select as his nom-de-monitor the epithet of the supreme god of
the Canaanites, the most high El, the Mighty Bull. This, of course,
only demonstrates the cultural ignorance of so many Christians
who believe that all they need to know is contained in "The
Good Book"! One name prominent in AOL is that of Molleen
Matsumura, whose nom-de-pixtels is [ref003]MolleenM."
She is network project director for the [ref004]National Center for Science Education
and an editor of [ref005]Free Inquiry.
She was a speaker at the recent Humcon held aboard the Queen Mary
in Long Beach, California, last fall. I plan to accumulate noms-de-bytes
so that they will be available to AOL people who want to know
who is "on."
P. O. Box 65706, Los Angeles, CA 90041._
EDITOR'S NOTE: This spring we streamlined our office with a new
computer system and went on line too. [ref007]Jftill@aol.com
is our e-mail address.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the winter, 1995, edition of _TSR_.
I am new to the swirling Till-Mitchell debates, but I think I
get the gist of what's going on. Mitchell brings new meaning to
the phrase, ad hominem argument." His childish, sarcastic
name-calling reminded me of the notes we used to write to each
other in the 7th grade when we were having fights. I admired your
refusal to get down to his level and sling meaningless mud. Your
only slip, it seems, was in referring to Mitchell's "thick
skull," but considering the almost unbelievable provocation,
it is certainly understandable.
Matthew Bullard's letter was a stunning hodgepodge of meandering
sarcasm, a grammatical nightmare, and an excellent example of
the type of graffiti you might find on the walls of the boys'
restroom in junior high school. Adolescent boys do get such a
kick out of "grossing out" girls with stories about
feces and hair balls and so on. But I cannot understand how such
topics could possibly end up in a letter to _TSR_ about
biblical inerrancy. Nor can I fathom the state of Bullard's mind
while he was writing such uninspiring prose.
First of all, don't these men understand that such writing is
boring? Secondly, if one is going to try to get cute with one's
quill pen, one should first learn to spell and punctuate. Never
have I seen so many run-on sentences in print in one place. And
finally, one undermines one's own case when one rants and raves.
My grandfather, a minister, used to joke about one of his sermon
notes: Argument weak, holler like hell.
More important, I found the Mitchell/Bullard letters quite cheering.
If that's all that's out there to defend the Bible's supposed
inerrancy, then the Bible's end cannot be long in coming. Illiterate
claims about inerrancy are oxymora to begin with. "The Bible
is, duh, gooder. Yeah, gooder." Who can take such drivel
seriously? Mitchell claimed, "Questions do not establish
anything." They do if they can't be answered. I would like
to see something in writing defending biblical inerrancy that
is (a) written in acceptable English, (b) devoid of useless name-calling,
and (c) focused solely on the issues at hand. Am I asking too
EDITOR'S NOTE: Having recently retired after 32 years of teaching
English and college writing, I can't express how much I agree
with Ms. Hayes' comments about Bullard's letter.
However, he is downright literate compared to some fundamentalists
who have written to me. Unfortunately, some freethinkers who write
to us also have problems with English grammar, spelling, and punctuation,
but overall they fare much better than most fundamentalist letter-writers.
Ms. Hayes probably can't imagine what I see in my mail. I get
letters from people who obviously don't know the first thing about
basic English grammar, yet they want me to believe that they know
all about the Bible, who wrote it, when, why, how, etc. My favorite
letter-writer is the kind who wouldn't know a noun from a verb
but wants me to believe that he can explain what controversial
biblical statements meant in the Hebrew and Greek originals. I
recently finished a written debate with such a man. Sometimes
I had to read sections of his manuscripts several times in order
to understand even what he was trying to say. Why did I bother
with him? I had already made the commitment before I realized
how woefully unequipped the man was to participate in such an
Before anyone writes to tell me that the truth of a claim is not
dependent upon the claimant's grammatical skills, I will readily
acknowledge that that is true. However, I have carefully examined
the "evidence" that the presumably best qualified spokesmen
for inerrancy have presented in support of their case, and have
repeatedly demonstrated in _The_Skeptical_Review_ just
how pathetically weak and absurdly illogical it is. So when a
Matthew Bullard rehashes that same evidence on the linguistic
level of an elementary school student, that just makes it look
all the more ridiculous.
Needless to say, I also agree with Ms. Hayes' belief that "the
Bible's end cannot be long in coming" if the likes of Mitchell
and Bullard are "all that's out there to defend the Bible's
supposed inerrancy." I have had quite a bit of experience
debating fundamentalists, so I feel qualified to say that really
the best in the inerrancy camp aren't a whole lot better than
Mitchell and Bullard.
Like Ms. Hayes, I too would like to see someone on the inerrancy
side defend this doctrine in "acceptable English" without
resorting to "useless name-calling" and deviations from
"the issues at hand." How about it Lindell Mitchell,
Jerry Moffitt, Buster Dobbs, Marion Fox, Mac Deaver, Wayne Jackson,
Norman Geisler, Josh McDowell, Gleason Archer, Gary Habermas,
and Mr. X in Fairfax, Virginia? Any of you interested?
Yet another argument that could be used in refuting the fundamentalist
justification of the Bible god's orders to kill infants (that
all who die before reaching the "age of accountability"
get to go to heaven) is that such actions are unfair to those
who die after reaching that "age."
Unlike the rest of us, those babies whom the Bible god wanted
killed got to go to heaven for eternity without having to make
the conscious decision to accept the right religious creeds. They
had no trial period that could've jeopardized their eternal fate.
Since all of us were babies before, and since babies don't have
much control over what happens to them, it is an absolute travesty
of justice that some have gotten to go to heaven simply because
they were lucky enough to die during their infancy. It is simply
a matter of chance that those of us who didn't die during infancy
Hope we can set up another debate with you. Keep up the good work.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sanjay makes a point similar to what I have argued
with fundamentalists who try to justify the Yahwistic massacres
of children and babies in the Old Testament on the grounds that
they went to heaven instead of growing up to become wicked like
their parents. I suggest to those who make this asinine argument
that instead of being so eager to send out preachers and missionaries
to save the lost, churches should organize hit squads to go into
maternity and pediatric wards and kill all of the innocent babies
and children so that they will go to heaven instead of growing
up to become wicked like their parents. They would probably send
far more souls to heaven than they have been doing through evangelization
methods. I might also add that rather than bombing abortion clinics
and assassinating those who work there, fundamentalists should
set up their own clinics and encourage women to use them. Just
think how many more souls they would be able to send to heaven.
As for the eternal destiny of those who participated in such baby
massacres, we would think that a just, benevolent god would surely
reward them for their good deeds.
You might wish to inform your readers that the _Deaver-Till
Debate_ is available in print (the oral debate was transcribed
and is available in three ring binders). The price is $14.00 plus
$2.00 for postage. This can be ordered from Biblical Notes, 7401
Glenhaven Path, Austin, TX 78737.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This debate was conducted at Southwest Texas State
University in March 1991. The subject was Bible morality, and
Mr. Deaver defended the massacre of the Amalekite children on
the grounds that Yahweh did them a favor by having them killed
while they were still young enough to be taken to "glory."
In earlier issues of _TSR_, availability of video tapes
of this debate was advertised, but I stopped promoting it because
of the poor quality of video production. The sound was lost several
times, and it was necessary for one entire speech of Mr. Deaver
to be re-created. I found the accuracy of the re-creation to be
doubtful in places. I was asked to supply audio reproductions
of some sections of one of my speeches, but I couldn't honestly
verify that the "dubs" I sent to the producer were actually
what I had said. For this reason, I stopped promoting the tapes.
At my first debate in Portland, Texas, I learned that the Deaver-Till
Debate had been transcribed by Vicki Hightower, the wife of a
Church-of-Christ preacher in San Antonio. Having worked at transcribing
part of my debate with Norman Geisler, I appreciate the time and
effort that Ms. Hightower put into this work, but I have checked
sections of her transcriptions while listening to the tapes and
have found several mistakes. None of the mistakes substantially
altered the content of the debate, so anyone reading it will get
a fairly accurate account of the video version of the debate.
I have tried to find time to publish a more accurate transcript
of this debate to sell at a much lower cost, but the remarkable
growth of _The_Skeptical_Review_ has kept me too busy.
If any subscribers have scanning equipment and would be willing
to scan the Biblical Notes version into ASCII files, I could more
easily compare the files to the tapes, correct mistakes, and then
publish a more accurate version. If anyone is interested in helping
me on this project, please let me know.
Before this debate, Mac Deaver wrote to tell me that he would
expect me to reciprocate by agreeing to debate the same issue
in Central Illinois. I immediately assured him that I would do
so, but after the debate was over, I found that he didn't have
much enthusiasm for a return engagement. The subject of Bible
morality is an important one that both Christians and skeptics
seem to be interested in, so I would urge Mr. Deaver to give serious
consideration to the second debate that we previously agreed on.
After sending him an advanced copy of this column, he responded
with an indication that he is now ready to consider doing the
second debate. Discussions are now in progress, so perhaps another
debate on Bible morality will occur after all. Meanwhile, if any
subscribers would like to view tapes of the first debate, _The
Skeptical_Review_ will make them available at our regular
two-week rental rate of $3.
Are you still offering the first year's subscription free? If
so, would you please send _The_Skeptical_Review_ to
me? I think I started being a skeptic as a young child, when I
thought, "But how could they get all of those animals on
the ark, anyway?" Thank you for your work. I just read something
about _TSR_ and got your address from the Worldwide
Web on the Internet.
Thanks very much for your complimentary subscription for one year.
It is a bit of a culture shock in this day and age to be given
something valuable for free by a small business enterprise, and
it is much appreciated.
An important bit of suppressed information that helps show the
close relationship between Christianity and Hinduism such as attempted
by Stephen Van Eck in his article "[ref008]Hare Jesus: Christianity's Hindu Heritage,"
Summer 94, is that the words Christ, Christian, etc. are merely
alternative spellings of the word Krishna. So modern Christians
are inadvertently singing the praises of the Hindu god Krishna
and not the poor deluded Jew they think they are idolising, who
wasn't known by that label. Jesus (which also incidentally wasn't
his real name either but was a modified version of the names of
a number of ancient pagan gods such as Zeus, Dionysus, Adonis,
etc.) was only named after the Hindu god as a vain attempt to
make him seem more important and to acknowledge the true origins
of some of his deceptive teachings.
Thanks again for what you are doing.
Sometime last summer I sent you a check for all of the back issues
of _The_Skeptical_Review_. I received them and have
read them fairly thoroughly, highlighting the many parts of articles
I want to recall for future reference. I am in no way a Bible
scholar, so I do enjoy these articles; however, I really became
excited when you decided to take on other issues besides Biblical
inerrancy, such as "[ref009]God Was with Him,"
"[ref010]The Truth Will Make You Free,"
and "[ref011]No Morality without the Bible?"
(Several years ago, in a nearby town, a tree limb in a park crashed
on two toddlers. One lived; one died. The mother of the surviving
child said, "God was with him." I was horrified for
the parents of the dead child. Assuming they are believers, how
could they not be crushed by such an insensitive comment?) Thank
you for the things you write about. I'm beginning to see, through
your publication and others I have found, that I am not alone
in my horror at religion's impact!
The last issue I received was Winter 1995. Because I am not certain
if I have received all issues of the first-year free subscription
and because I do not want to miss Spring 1995, I am enclosing
a check for $5 and leave you to sort out that matter accordingly.
I certainly do believe your publication is a bargain and assume
you do not therefore have the resources to notify subscribers
when it is time for renewal.
I was wondering if you might eventually delve into the subject
of religion and the bible and its impact upon women. It was one
of the factors in my realizing I'd always been an atheist but
by no means the only one. That would have to be when I realized
how preposterous the whole god concept was! Except for Sandra
Till's article, which touched upon the "woman" question,
I haven't seen as much as I might like, especially considering
how dismissive of women, how sexist, the bible writers were. It
seems to me religion would be mortally wounded if women would
stop supporting it. Why they do, I do not know.
In closing, I just want to note the change in attitude I saw in
your position from Winter 1990, wherein you described yourself
as "agnostic." In the Spring 1994 issue, you said you
are "an atheist who was once a bible-believing theist."
Certainly, you gave out clues early on, but as an atheist who
has described herself that way for years, I was heartened to read
it. To me, it means quite simply one who is without a belief in
god. We need to say it proudly, to de-demonize it, and stop letting
others define us.
My compliments to you and your contributors for the obvious enthusiasm
and scholarship you bring to this issue. I too care desperately
about this issue and am reading everything I can get my hands
on that is written by nonbelievers, and I'm finding there is a
lot available, but you really have to hunt for it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jesus allegedly said, "The kingdom of heaven
is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,
which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown
it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds
of the air come and nest in its branches" ([ref012]Matt. 13:31-32).
Fundamentalists quote this as if Christianity were unique, but
the statement merely expresses an ideological truth. One doesn't
abandon belief in an idea to accept another the first time he
hears a new idea presented. The change occurs gradually over a
period of time. That was what happened to me. I didn't reject
the Bible the first time I encountered flaws in the inerrancy
doctrine; the seed of doubt had to germinate and grow. When I
did step away from fundamentalist Christianity, I didn't do it
as an atheist but as an agnostic. With time, however, I realized
that the "god concept" that Ms. Feroe mentioned in her
letter simply could not survive logical examination, so I declared
myself an atheist. I take great pride in my atheism and consider
it the biggest step that I ever took in my intellectual growth.
Sandra Till's article ("[ref013]The Wisdom of Solomon,"
Summer 1991, pp. 8-10) received more favorable comments than any
single article we have published. I assume that most readers know,
or at least suspect, that she is my wife. I have encouraged her
to write more on the Bible and women's issues, but she doesn't
share my enthusiasm for writing. This issue contains "[ref014]God's Opinion of Women"
(pp. 11, 16), and we plan to publish more on this subject. We
do notify subscribers with a center insert when it is time to
renew their subscriptions. Until you see one in your copy, you
don't have to wonder if your subscription is current. Those who
send renewal checks before receiving notification will have their
subscriptions extended another year.
There is indeed a lot of material available to debunk the Bible,
but one has to know where to look for it. Readers who are interested
in such materials should contact Prometheus Books (59 John Glenn
Drive, Buffalo, NY 14228-2197) and H. H. Waldo, Bookseller (P.
O. Box 350, Rockton, IL 61072) and ask to be put on their mailing
lists. Those who have computers should contact Emmett Fields,
514 Eastern Parkway, Louisville, KY 40217. For $10, you can obtain
10 HD disks on which he has scanned numerous freethought books
and publications that are out of print or hard to find.
My son, Daniel Anderson, recently subscribed to your magazine
_The_Skeptical_Review_. I would like you to cancel
his subscription immediately and refund any remaining amount.
Please send to me at the above address any amount owed back.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I informed Ms. Anderson that her letter contained
insufficient information to honor her request, because her son's
age was not given. If he is old enough to make responsible decisions
about what he wishes to read, he should request the cancellation.
The fact that she expected a refund on a free subscription indicated
that she had written without even having consulted her son.
Less than a week ago while checking out the skeptical pages on
the world-wide-web (Internet), I had the great fortune of finding
a site containing the text of all _TSR_ issues. I downloaded one
issue from 1990, to check what it was all about, read it in one
go then went back, downloaded, printed and read all 20 of them.
The question is, what am I going to do until the next one arrives?
The $50 bill included in this letter will hopefully be enough
to cover the costs of all published issues as well as mailing
costs to Sweden. I also hope you could put me on your subscription
list for the next few decades (got more dollars in a shoe box
somewhere). In one of the last issues, you've mentioned the great
news that you would be retiring sometime during the year. I say
it's great news because I suppose you'll have more time to devote
to writing, and perhaps we'll see more than 4 issues per year.
I subscribe to a great number of skeptical and humanist/secular
journals (such as [ref015]The Skeptical Inquirer,
etc.), but the material in your review surpasses everything else
in terms of clarity of thought and razor-sharp logic. I'm referring,
of course, to the skeptical material, because the contributions
of the "apologates" (McDonald, Dobbs, Mitchell, etc.)
range from the pathetic through the ridiculous to outright moronic.
While debating the above mentioned gentlemen amounts to nothing
less than shooting dead fish in a barrel, I do hope they could
be persuaded to keep sending in their material, which, besides
giving us all a good laugh, might help science in documenting
the depths of human stupidity and moral bankruptcy....
Finally, for all of your readers with access to Internet, I highly
recommend the following World Wide Web address: [ref017]http://freethought.tamu.edu/freethought/,
which is maintained by Mr. [ref018]Brett Lemoine.
It is a gold mine of (mostly) out-of-print freethought literature
as you can see from the list of contents I have included in this
Mr. Lemoine writes, "Most of the files available here were
painstakingly scanned in from freethought literature, for which
the copyright had expired, by Emmett F. Fields. Mr. Fields gave
copies of his work to Frank Prahl of the [ref019]American Humanist Association.
Mr. Prahl, in turn, provided copies to me. I am making this literature
available to the public so that more people might be made aware
of the depth and duration of the freethought movement in this
country and abroad. These files may be freely reproduced, copied,
printed out, and given away but may not be sold."
Notice that from this site you can, with a click of the mouse-button,
download the complete text of the book [ref020]Is It God's Word?
by [ref021]Joseph Wheless
(which you recommended in _TSR_, vol. 5, issue 1) as
well as his other book from 1930, [ref022]Forgery in Christianity.
Let's face it, whether they like it or not, they are "living
on borrowed time."
(Kiriakos Papadopoulos, Jungfrudansen 100, 171 56 Solna, Sweden.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Where the ellipsis (...) appears in Mr. Papadopoulos's
letter he had some words of praise for Ruth Hurmence Green's book
he incorrectly assumes is out of print. This book is still published
by [ref024]The Freedom From Religion Foundation
(P.O.Box 750, Madison, WI 53701) and can be purchased for $10.
Subscribers with computers not connected to the Internet may wish
to contact Emmett Fields directly (address given above) to purchase
a set of disks containing all of the freethought materials that
Brett Lemoine has available at the WWW address mentioned in Mr.
Papadopoulos's letter. A set of 10 HD disks may be purchased for
only $10. Several entire out-of-print freethought books are on
We have printed Mr. Papadopoulos's letter to emphasize a point
we have made before: the information age, which is only in its
infancy, will undoubtedly bring startling changes in religious
thinking. The time is gone when church leaders can suppress information
they don't want their sheep to know. Anyone sitting at his computer
practically anywhere in the world can, by stroking just a few
keys, access the Internet and all the information it contains.
Much of it is unfriendly to Bible fundamentalism.
While watching your debate on the existence of God with Jerry
Moffitt, I was intrigued by his use of probability arguments.
This seems to be a constant theme with theists and creationists.
I think to assume that all natural processes are totally random
is a mistake. Take the example of atoms joining to form specific
molecules. If you treat the joining of different atoms to form
all possible compounds as random, like flipping a coin or tossing
dice, with each combination as likely as any other, then any specific
outcome is highly unlikely. But surely atoms do not operate like
coins or dice. Specific compounds would form more readily than
others because of the properties of atoms like carbon. The randomness
that nature exhibits may not be the pure mathematical randomness
that creationists assume. Snowflakes would be another example.
Would a theist call snowflakes a miracle? I think not. Yet they
are not random. Order from chaos? Hardly!
Creationists can see only two alternatives: nature, which they
think is random, and God, which cannot leave room for evolution.
They cannot see the possibility of complexity evolving from simplicity.
The chance of life's origin may have been a small finite one,
but it was an open question as to if it was totally random.
Finally, I do not see why they insist on placing the cause of
things outside the universe, in an unknown. Why not instead look
for the explanation in the operation of known forces? They ask,
"What caused the Big Bang?" To which I reply, "Why
would its cause be a God (much less the God of the Bible) instead
of a series of causes without end?" I think an eternal universe
is more likely than an unknown, eternal God. We know the universe
with its various forces exists; we cannot say the same for God.
Editor's Note: I have received a lot of letters that scoffed at
the absurd probability arguments that Moffitt used in this debate.
One of them, written by someone in attendance at the debate, actually
beat me home from Texas.
I am a recent skeptic, just liberated from fundamentalist Christianity.
Please send me a subscription to _The_Skeptical_Review_.
I would be happy to pay for any back issues you have.