Aron has lost any ounce of respect I once had for him with this last response. He still is not grasping basic definitions (like intrinsic and extrinsic), yet claiming I am the one being dishonest. There is a lot of projection in his video. However, the silver lining is we might be getting somewhere finally with pistis. At random times in this video, he seems to finally get that pistis doesn’t mean what he said in his last video, “Faith is a complete trust that is not based on evidence.” However, at other times he doesn’t seem to get it. For example, at one point in his conversation with Dr. Josh Bowen, he seems to suggest from what he studied that pistis is forced trust (Dr. Bowen doesn’t confirm this and we will get to this later on). But I am going to go through this video and respond to what needs to be addressed and leave it at that. I suspect Aron might respond again. He just seems to double down on the errors and ignore the mistakes he keeps making, especially when it comes to the social sciences.
In a nutshell, AronRa’s case rests on three rather fallacies:
1. First, Aron Ra tried to prove that Christianity, in general, is tied to negative outcomes by cherry-picking individual instances of Christians behaving badly. Picking individual instances to prove a general trend is an example of the inductive fallacy called an association fallacy (or hasty generalization). In addition, he displays a related cognitive bias which in social psychology is called the intergroup attribution error. More on this later.
2. Second, he has distorted (at times) the meaning of the word ‘pistis’ (faith) to imply that Christian doctrine by its very nature promoted a mindless belief sometimes even in the face of overwhelming evidence when no contemporary scholar of Koine Greek actually thinks that’s what the original word ‘pistis” meant. More on this later.
3. Finally, when I cited counterevidence to his thesis in the form of social science research that ties intrinsic religiosity to positive social outcomes, he thinks that’s a no-true-Scotsman fallacy. He thinks I am unjustifiably restricting my analysis of the benefits of religion to intrinsic religiosity — while ignoring Christians who are extrinsically religious. Again, more on this later.
Let’s address these points one by one.
At 0:50 seconds in, Aron says he didn’t make any association fallacies in the debate, which is blatantly false. He spent a lot of time citing examples of Christians doing bad things (politicians, alleged Christians upset about breastfeeding in public, the Bible Belt, Catholic priests, etc.) and then argued Christianity was dangerous from these examples. You don’t have to take my word for it, anyone can go back and watch his opening presentation to see the connections he attempted to make. That is an association fallacy. Finding that some individual Christians behave badly doesn’t mean that Christianity, in general, is dangerous, and it doesn’t show that Christianity caused people to behave badly. There are actually two leaps of logic here. First is an association fallacy, since Aron Ra tried to prove a general trend by citing individual cases, but the second one is a correlation-causation fallacy. Even if he were to succeed in proving a correlation between religion and negative outcomes, that would not prove a causal link. It would equally have been an association fallacy if I got up there and spent half my time citing cherry-picked examples of good things Christians have done. That doesn’t necessarily mean Christianity caused good behavior.
Also, to clarify, I mainly accused Aron of a related cognitive error called the attribution error. What’s an attribution error? It’s the cognitive bias in highly prejudiced people to assume that immoral actions committed by members of their in-group are outliers, but examples of immoral actions committed by members of an out-group prove a general trend. For instance, an atheist may believe that Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Jacobins of revolutionary France, and Pol Pot are just outliers or bad apples; isolated examples that are not representative of the atheist community, while instances of evil Christians are not just isolated examples, but representative of a general trend.
After this, Aron says, “Listing the ways that the commands of Christian doctrine are and have been historically dangerous is not an association fallacy.” Here we have our first misrepresentation because I never said this or implied this is where the attribution error occurred in his presentation. I pointed out, as I just did yet again, that random examples of Christians behaving badly is the association fallacy. The error with this claim is to simply point out that there is no empirical evidence or meta-analysis that shows Christian doctrine causes bad behavior. The very limited data that might imply negative correlations is fickle, is not often replicated, and very few researchers have ever claimed Christian doctrine is a cause of harmful behavior (at least what I have read in the meta-analyses).
Second, Aron is either confused or misrepresenting my point again. I never said this is where the association fallacy was made, and it is easy to verify this. Go back and watch the debate, or better yet, I’ll just link my entire opening script so everyone can see that when I called out an attribution error, it was over the citing of random examples, not addressing Christian doctrines. I covered that in a later section of my presentation.
After this, Aron cites some verses and reveals two things: a lack of charity in interpretation and a lack of scholarship. First is Matthew 15:11, “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” The second is Mark 16:18, “they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Aron says of this verse, “If the basic tenets of the faith tell people that if God says it doesn’t matter what they take into their bodies, they can hold venomous snakes and drink bleach and all that and it won’t hurt them if they can just make-believe hard enough…”
Wow, where to begin…
First, it is nearly unanimous that Mark 16:18 is a later addition, thanks to the rigorous work done by Christian and non-Christian scholars in textual criticism. This has been known for over a century, and even very conservative scholars recognize this passage doesn’t go back to Jesus. (1)
The prior verse is widely taken out of context. I cannot find a scholarly source that suggests Jesus was saying it doesn’t matter biologically what you take into your body. Jesus was responding to Pharisees who focused on ritual purity. This is obviously clarified in verses 19-20 where Jesus says he is talking about what is defiling the heart. This is not a commentary on physical health.
Craig Keener notes in his commentary that this is about questions of what constitutes morality: “But Pharisaic scribes frequently determined morality (where the Torah was unclear) by extrapolating from tradition; by demanding that disciples extrapolate morality instead from biblical principles Jesus takes ethics out of the domain of the academy and courtroom and places it more fully in the daily lives of his followers.” (2)
D. A. Carson says, “The verb koinoi (‘makes [him] “unclean”’), here used (v.ll) for the first of thirteen times in the NT, literally means ‘to render common’; but because participation in what was common was for a practicing Jew to become ceremonially unclean, the customary NT meaning is very similar.” (3)
So Aron is asserting an uncharitable and unscholarly interpretation of a passage that he has been corrected on before (see his debate with Tyler Vela, during the cross-examination). It is also a blatant quote mine and he has never corrected himself on this.
Next, Aron cites Deuteronomy 22:23-24 and says this verse means you can kill a rape victim. Well, again, this is an uncharitable quote mine. Verses 25-27 tell of an account of a woman who is raped and is supposed to go free. Commentators have noted verses 23-24 are about a man and woman having an affair, not rape, as the Hebrew verbs are different. I’ll link to a video by an atheist who debunked this bad eisegesis.
Aron cites another Old Testament passage, Deuteronomy 13:6-10. Instead of addressing this, I’ll remind him I already addressed alleged Old Testament commands in my presentation during our debate. Remember this slide:
None of these commands are prescribed to Christians. Furthermore, this is a case of misreading scripture with modern eyes. Scholars note Levitical law and other ancient Near East (ANE) law codes are not modern law codes, but more likely treaties meant to teach judicial or moral wisdom. Here are some scholarly quotes to back this up:
Delbert Hillers says, “…there is no evidence that any collection of Near Eastern laws functioned as a written code that was applied by a strict method of exegesis to individual cases. As far as we can tell, these bodies of laws served educational purposes and gave expression to what was regarded as just in typical cases, but they left considerable latitude to local courts for determining the right in individual suits. They aided local courts without controlling them.” (4)
John Walton says, “The current view is that the collection of legal saying in the ancient Near Eastern documents constitutes expressions of legal wisdom assembled under the king’s sponsorship (and attributed to him) to provide evidence of his wisdom and justice… These are not laws that have been enacted, nor necessarily rulings that have actually been given. They are treatises on judicial wisdom.” (5)
J. Bottéro says, “In conclusion, we have here not a law code, nor a charter of a legal reform, but above all, in its own way, a treatise, with examples, on the exercise of judicial powers.” – Le code de Hammurabi, (6)
Bruce Wells says, “[The legal systems of the ANE] allowed the same infraction to be punished with different penalties. The wronged party often had the right to choose which penalty or penalties to impose on the offending party. A husband who had been wronged by pre-consummation sex plus deception thus had a range of penalties from which to choose.” (7)
So it is unlikely the ancient Israelites took these as we take modern law codes today. Aron hasn’t checked up on the scholarship regarding this topic and it shows. But either way, these verses are not prescribed to Christians, so Aron is just blatantly wrong claiming these verses lead to harmful effects in society. Furthermore, there is no study which empirically demonstrates these cherry-picked verses produce harmful effects. Thus, Aron’s claim that these verses lead to harmful effects is unverified, so that means he takes this all on faith that Christianity causes dangerous effects.
At 1:47, Aron says, “You dismissed all my examples as just Christians behaving badly, including my specific references to Jesus promoting slavery, among other dangerous ideas. Yet you now deny dismissing him right along with the rest of my list the way you definitely did.”
No, Aron, I addressed all this. Again, examples of Christians behaving badly in modern times is nothing but an attribution error, unless you have a direct study which shows (or at least finds a positive correlation) between negative behavior and certain Christian doctrines. You didn’t present any evidence to verify the attributions errors you kept making, and I addressed your claim that Jesus promoted bad behavior by pointing out the stipulations of the new covenant are to love one another (see slide and points above). The problem is that you are not even offering a rebuttal to my points, but instead pretending I never made a point, which is the real dodge going on here. If you don’t agree with my interpretation, offer a rebuttal. Don’t just pretend one doesn’t exist. That is what is dishonest.
At 2:02 Aron says, “You also denied that the Bible actually does endorse capital punishment for LGBTQ people.” Again, I addressed this in the debate and above in the blog. To recap, none of this is stipulated in the new covenant, and scholars note the Old Testament law is more didactic in teaching judicial wisdom via case law, not prescribing minimal sentences. This is getting repetitive. So from now on when Aron cites an Old Testament passage out of context, I’ll just ignore it and move on. Until he takes a more scholarly approach to this issue, there is no reason to engage with him on it, and he is just preaching to his audience.
Also, he puts Romans 1:26-27 on the screen at this point, which doesn’t say “murder gays.” It literally says on the screen that Aron put up that God gave them over to their desires. So not only is Paul not commanding the murder of gays, he is telling us God lets them be (see a parallel in 1 Thess. 2:10-11). So that kind of challenges Aron’s point if God is just saying let them be. So Aron, did you even read the passage you are citing?
The next section makes me wonder if Aron even paid attention when I was speaking at our debate, or if he went back to check. At 2:28 he says, “You accused me of quote mining but cherry-picked a line out of Hebrews that directly contradicts what Jesus said in another verse that you yourself cited, where Jesus specified that we had better follow every jot and tittle of all those old Mosaic laws, because if we break even one of them we will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever practices every last one of those 613 Jewish commandments will be called great in heaven.”
Once again, we have another example of quote mining. I know, I am sure you are shocked, given what we have seen from Aron before. As I pointed out in the debate, Matthew 5:18 says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Notice how Aron just quote-mined by leaving out the last part of the verse. Again, see my slide on when all was accomplished:
Jesus said it will pass away when all is fulfilled, and it was all fulfilled in John 19:28-30, which is why this passage doesn’t contradict Hebrews 8. Second, I will remind you Jesus was an oral rabbi and frequently spoke in hyperbole, as was the custom at the time. Jesus also said the point of the law was to point to Him (John 5:39). So to do the law is to follow Jesus, which is explained in detail in Romans 3, not to literally keep the Mosaic law in practice, because that is impossible.
At 2:57, Aron says, “You said that I provided no empirical evidence that Christianity causes bad behavior, ignoring the list of historical atrocities that were endorsed and enforced by Christian clergy and driven by Christian conviction, earning the title of the bloodiest religion in history.”
Wow, once again, where to begin. Did you notice the contradiction from what he said earlier?
Before that, notice Aron’s source that Christianity is the bloodiest religion in history doesn’t come from a historian or a peer-reviewed paper, but an article in the Washington Times (not the Washington Post, mind you). Oddly enough, he forgot to note that in this video. The author of the article is Chris Ladd, who is just a pundit. He also doesn’t use the phrase “bloodiest religion in history”. Aron interpreted that from the brief article. Even worse, the article doesn’t really support Aron’s interpretation. Ladd writes, “No matter what religion teaches, some bloody-minded believers will twist it to justify their own dark urges. Religion does what people tell it to do. There is a clear connection between religion and violence – human beings.” Aron cites and misrepresents this short article as if it was fact, which really speaks to his bias and poor research (see this short booklet for more on the poor research Aron has done in the past).
Second, remember that Vox Day (7) went through “The Encyclopedia of Wars,” by Alan Axelrod and Charles Phillips and found that of the 1,723 wars waged over the course of human history, only 124 were religious in nature (6.98%). Subtract Islam and the total number of wars attributed to religion is 3.23%. So mathematically, Aron is way off target here (and also lacking studies which demonstrate Christianity causes violence). AronRa is clearly oblivious to the evidence. How can Christianity be the bloodiest religion in history if in the absence of Christianity, wars were even bloodier, the body count even higher and the atrocities even more cold-blooded? The Mongol conquest of Europe, for instance, killed 34 million people. The communist regimes of the 20th century massacred more than 100,000,000 of their own citizens. (8)
Moreover, William Cavanaugh in the Blackwell Companion to Religious Violence notes that even in wars quintessentially identified as religious, such as the 30-year war, divisions between warring factions were more frequently drawn along secular than religious lines. So mathematically, Aron is way off target here. (9)
Third, once again, this is an attribution error or association fallacy. Aron is just citing examples by association and then assuming too much. To quote Aron, from earlier in his own video, “An association fallacy would be like asserting that some Christians are bad therefore Christianity is bad.” So by Aron’s own words, giving a list of “historical atrocities that were endorsed and enforced by Christian clergy” is an association fallacy and doesn’t show Christianity is bad. Again, you need peer-reviewed, multivariate studies to show Christianity is dangerous, and so far the overwhelming amount of research shows the opposite is true (we will get to these studies he cited below). Any example he cites (like the Mormon execution), by his own standard, is just an attribution error or an association fallacy. So I’ll skip over the rest of the times he does this since his own words came back to bite him.
At about 3:51, Aron cites a dissertation of Juan M. Thompson on the effects of religiosity on mental health. First of all, within the discussion section, Thompson does admit the correlations are weak. Second, without spending too much time on the limitations of this study, I want to remind Aron what I said in my presentation during the debate, “In fact, numerous studies show intrinsic religiosity does increase one’s overall quality of life and has been positively associated with increased ethical behavior and overall well-being. Now, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Some studies do show religiosity is associated with various negative effects. But by in large, the consensus in the peer-reviewed literature is intrinsic religiosity is not only not dangerous, but that it is associated with beneficial results in multiple ways, some studies even cite a causal relationship.”
I have already acknowledged there are some studies that do find a negative correlation with intrinsic religiosity. This is why I focused on meta-analyses, which take into account a multitude of studies that reveal a broad range of results. In fact, in my presentation, I cited two meta-analyses on mental health which have sections that note studies that find a negative correlation between religiosity and mental health. However, when you take in all the studies published on this topic, by and large, intrinsic religiosity is positively associated with better mental health. Aron has just cherry-picked one study instead of looking at all the data together. There is so much quote-mining and cherry-picking going on. He really should have taken the stack I offered him:
At 3:56, Aron says, “Regarding the studies you cited, you asked why I said they were a dodge? Because as I said, in our debate, what they showed was only that some isolated aspect of Christianity may not be necessarily dangerous if that belief is only intrinsic, meaning that it is only for its own sake, described as a framework of life which is fortunately nowadays usually interpreted only as being good people and ignoring much of what the Bible actually says to contrary, which you do.”
It is hard to imagine how many errors can pile up in one short section. Aron is at it again, just making up definitions and not providing sufficient sources. Nowhere is intrinsic religiosity defined as “a framework of life which is fortunately nowadays usually interpreted only as being good people and ignoring much of what the Bible actually says to the contrary, which you do.” This is just nonsense.
I’ll just cite from one of the meta-analyses I cited in my presentation:
“Persons with [an intrinsic religious] orientation find their master motive in religion. Other needs, strong as they may be, are regarded as of less ultimate significance, as they are, so far as possible, bought into harmony with the religious beliefs and prescriptions. Having embraced a creed the individual endeavors to internalize it and follow it fully. It is in this sense that he lives his religion. (Allport & Ross 1967, p. 434)” (10)
In other words, to be an intrinsically religious Christian means you embrace the creeds of Christianity fully. You don’t ignore parts of it. So my point in citing meta-analyses was never a dodge, and the only reason Aron thinks it was is that he doesn’t understand the terminology or what the studies say (because he refused to read them). Aron just cannot seem to fathom how good people can follow what the Bible says, and the evidence shows their pro-social behavior (as the meta-analyses I cited strongly imply) is tied to their religiosity. Perhaps, as I noted in the debate, his interpretation of select passages is fallacious, most Christians don’t agree with his fallacious interpretations, and the overwhelming amount of research shows intrinsic religiosity is positively associated with beneficial outcomes. See the slide below:
Earlier in the video, Aron said this slide was an unworkable framework, which was my point. The arguments that he constantly puts forward are leaps in logic and cannot actually show Christianity is dangerous. The fact that he had to admit this in the opening lines of his video says more than he realizes.
Next, when Aron says, “As I said in our debate, what they showed was only that some isolated aspects of Christianity may not be necessarily dangerous if that belief is only intrinsic.” This statement doesn’t make any sense once we understand the definition of intrinsic religiosity. As we noted about intrinsic religiosity is, “Having embraced a creed the individual endeavors to internalize it and follow it fully. It is in this sense that he lives his religion.” If the studies show many positive benefits of this, then it is not just isolated aspects, but living your religion to its fullness. That should have been obvious.
At 4:30 Aron gets very close to asserting a conspiracy is at work. He says, “The reality is that the very concept of intrinsic religiosity was invented to counter a number of studies that showed a positive correlation with prejudice, meaning that the more religious one is, the more prejudiced they tend to be.”
Wow… So scientists in psychology and social science want to hide the truth that religion causes prejudice. So they got together and fabricated a difference via the I-E orientation scale to hide the fact that religion causes prejudice. Don’t creationists make the same claims about conspiracies in evolutionary biology? Those claims are laughable, and this is laughable for the very same reason.
The I-E orientation scale is not a conspiracy to hide that fact that religion causes prejudice. Scientists were asking the same questions any rational person would ask: “Is religion, itself, causing the beneficial result, or is it something external, like community unity or social gatherings?” So researchers realized they needed to divide subjects into the different ways they are religious, and typically what you come across is intrinsic, extrinsic, and quest (fundamentalism is sometimes even separated out as a distinct category).
Also, notice Aron doesn’t cite a source for this claim he made. He just asserts it as fact without verifying its truth. Until he actually shows that the I-E orientation scale is a conspiracy to hide the fact that religion causes prejudice, this claim needs to be rejected as nonsense. As Hitchens said:
Aron then follows up this with another line that doesn’t make sense. He says: “…because you admitted that Christianity really is dangerous when believers act on those beliefs extrinsically, meaning they use their religion as a means to an end. In other words, whenever religion does something to further its own agenda.”
This doesn’t make sense, probably because he still doesn’t understand what extrinsic religiosity means. Christianity cannot be extrinsically religious. Only people can be extrinsically religious. It doesn’t make sense to say extrinsic religiosity is when “religion does something to further its own agenda.” That is utter nonsense. People who are extrinsically religious use any religion to further their own agenda. It is not Christianity at that point.
“Persons with [an extrinsic religious] orientation are disposed to use religion for their own ends. The term is borrowed from axiology, to designate an interest that is held because it serves other, more ultimate interests. Extrinsic values are always instrumental and utilitarian. Persons with this orientation may find religion useful in a variety of ways–to provide security and solace, sociability and distraction, status and self-justification… The extrinsic type turns to God, but without turning away from the self. (Allport & Ross 1967, p. 434)” (10)
Again, people are extrinsically religious, not Christianity itself. Very rarely will you see social scientists ever say “extrinsic Christianity” and when they do they are using it as a label to describe groups of people, not Christianity, itself. So Aron is either lying or misunderstanding the terms. I never admitted Christianity can be dangerous when it is extrinsic because that doesn’t make sense. At this point, people need to realize this is not even my opinion against his. Aron is just getting basic facts and definitions wrong. I should not have to waste time correcting basic information.
After this, Aron just continues with the same misunderstandings and says nonsensical things like, “…any extrinsic action taken by that religion,” or “…when your religion acts it is dangerous.” This doesn’t make sense because religions don’t act, people do. If you thought maybe Aron just mixed up his words, that is not likely, given he continues this throughout the rest of his video.
Ironically, at 6:00 Aron gives an analogy that actually shoots himself in the foot. He says, “your argument was similar to saying… that having a gun in your house isn’t dangerous just as long as no one is ever tempted to do anything with it.”
Yeah, Aron, exactly. Guns are not dangerous, people are. Likewise, Christianity isn’t dangerous, people are, just like Christianity cannot be extrinsic or intrinsic, people are. Great analogy, thanks for making the point for me.
After this clip, Aron gets to actual studies that he either cherry-picked or probably didn’t read. Fortunately, I read them. At 6:44, the first one he cites, is a study titled, “Judgements About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds.”
Aron says of this study, “And yes, there are peer-reviewed studies to prove what I said. For example, this study shows that non-religious children are more capable of distinguishing fact from fiction than religious children who are more susceptible to deceptive fantasies, just like I already predicted they would be. We didn’t really need a study to confirm what we already knew was obvious, right? And notice we’re also only talking about intrinsic religiosity here.”
I said before I quoted Aron that he probably didn’t read them (or he is lying), because the study never even says the word “intrinsic,” and you can verify that, Aron. It should be obvious to anyone who has read these types of studies that they would never include an I-E orientation scale because children are not capable of answering a questionnaire to determine their I-E orientation.
In fact, Aron should not be putting so much weight on this study because researchers are aware of the limitation of studying children. To quote from “Studying Children in Context: Theories, Methods, and Ethics”:
“Studying children is a different and more problematic endeavor from studying adults, and studying young children is even more so. Physical, social, cognitive, and political distances between the adults and child make their relationship very different from adult relationships. A participant observer can never become a child. He remains a very definite and readily identifiable ‘other.’” (11)
This should also be obvious since the brains of children are nowhere near fully developed, so social scientists always take these types of studies with a grain of salt. Furthermore, I cannot find any indication that the results have been replicated, let alone a cross-cultural analysis. This paper also had very small sample sizes (66 in the first study and 33 in the second).
Moreover, Aron is not really getting at what the paper demonstrates. In a nutshell, the studies performed in the paper basically indicate children in religious homes have a broader concept of what can happen or what is possible, which would be expected since religious households would include the idea of an agent beyond the natural realm, whereas this would not be included in nonreligious households. The study does not say, as Aron says, that religious children are more “susceptible to deceptive fantasies.” He just made a conjecture.
To quote from the study directly:
“Thus, religious children are likely to see God as connected to their everyday lives and are prepared to view religious stories containing miracles as similar to realistic stories. They judge the characters in those stories to be real, and they frequently appeal to God in justifying those categorizations. Thus, for these children, God is part of the real world and stories that refer to God can properly be regarded as realistic…The findings are, however, consistent with the third explanation, namely that religious children have a broader conception of what can actually happen. Scrutiny of children’s justifications lends support to this conclusion.” (page 21)
Since Aron knows in his heart that religion is wrong, we can see where his conjecture comes from. In reality, the study only demonstrates the obvious, that religious subjects have a broader range of what is considered possible than nonreligious subjects. In the paper, the authors note religious children are still able to recognize fantasy. For example, they identified Snow White as fantasy and George Washington as real. This study does not prove what Aron thinks, and the fact that he used the word “prove” shows he doesn’t understand the implications of studies like this. They never prove anything, but instead, lend credence to one theory or another.
Furthermore, let me remind Aron what I said in our debate which shows us he is cherry-picking studies: “In fact, numerous studies show intrinsic religiosity does increase one’s overall quality of life and has been positively associated with increased ethical behavior and overall well-being. Now, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Some studies do show religiosity is associated with various negative effects. But by in large, the consensus in the peer-reviewed literature is intrinsic religiosity is not only not dangerous, but that it is associated with beneficial results in multiple ways, some studies even cite a causal relationship.”
The next study Aron cites really doesn’t help his case. The title is, “Mixed Blessing: The Beneficial and Detrimental Effects of Religion on Child Development among Third-Graders”.
Aron says, “Another study published in the journal of “Religions” shows that there can be beneficial effects to any religion if the whole family or community shares that same belief and don’t confront other beliefs, in which case all those advantages would be lost, and this again is intrinsic religiosity.”
This is, yet again, another mischaracterization of what the study shows. Like the previous, the study never mentions intrinsic religiosity, so I doubt Aron read it, or he is lying about it. It is focusing on third graders, as you can see from the title behind him, so the same limitations apply, as I mentioned above.
Furthermore, let me just quote directly from the study so you can see for yourself how Aron is mischaracterizing it. I’ll include a hyperlink here so you can read the full context if you want:
“More frequent parent–child discussions of religion significantly bolstered standardized test scores for reading, thereby suggesting that such conversations—perhaps practiced as scripture study or religious devotionals within the home—might enhance children’s literacy. Also, some forms of parental religiosity (fathers’ attendance and both spouses attending semiregularly or frequently) produced salutary effects on children’s approaches to learning as rated by teachers. Therefore, children’s orientations to learning and their achievement on tests are affected somewhat differently by parental religiosity… the psychological adjustment, social competence, and academic performance of somewhat older children is likely subject to a mix of religious factors (e.g., parents’ attendance) and nonreligious factors (e.g., teachers, peers)…
Parental religiosity yields salutary effects on a number of child development outcomes related to psychological adjustment (e.g., self-control) and social competence (e.g., interpersonal skills). And it can also bolster children’s orientations toward learning. However, parental religiosity can also undermine children’s academic development in reading, math, and science. In this way, parental religiosity is a mixed blessing in the lives of developing children. Moreover, within the household religious environment, we found that parent–child discussions of religion exhibited generally beneficial effects for developing children with respect to their interpersonal skills and reading scores but that spousal arguments about religion were generally ineffectual (producing null results). Thus, when considering developmental trajectories over time, different facets of the household religious environment yield distinctive effects. In short, this study renders a more complicated portrait concerning the effects of parental and household religion in the lives of young children, such that several salutary outcomes on psychological and social measures are observed alongside a series of mostly adverse effects on academic performance measures.” (pages 15-16)
The study never says intrinsic religiosity or Christian doctrine can affect a child’s development. After all, I already cited a meta-analysis which shows religion can have positive effects on GPA scores of children. What this study actually shows is that parental activities and how parents handle their religious disagreements or concerns can have a negative effect on their children. Who would disagree that parental arguments can have a negative impact on their children? Aron’s summary is a pretty bad misrepresentation. No wonder he didn’t directly quote from it.
After this, Aron cites studies on prayer failing to work, as if we haven’t heard this straw man before. Prayer is not a magical formula that God has to answer to. When atheists make this argument, it shows they are not even trying. I’ll just link to a video which addresses this nonsense and remind Aron that I already cited a meta-analysis which did show religiosity aided the health of cancer patients. So more cherry-picking from Aron.
After this, Aron continues to demonstrate his lack of knowledge on this subject by talking of “extrinsic Christianity,” which as I explained above, is not a thing (unless you are describing groups of people, not a religion). That would be like saying I have a happy house. The adjective cannot coherently explain the noun.
At 8:21 Aron says, “You showed an image of Steven Anderson, leader of the Independent Fundamental Baptists, who advocates killing disobedient children as the Bible says we should. You said it would not be a ‘no true Scotsman fallacy’ for you to dismiss such religious extremists who interpreted scripture differently from the way that you do, but no, you can say they are bad Christians and I’ll agree with you since they’re bad people, but you can’t say that they’re not truly Christian as if they’re not Christian at all.”
Since I already addressed this and Aron doesn’t seem to understand the problem with his argument. I’ll repeat what I said in my earlier video response. Perhaps if he reads it he will grasp the double standard he is setting up:
“The no true Scotsman fallacy is meant to be used for arguments that dismiss members of a group over arbitrary reasons. Take one of the original examples: you are only a true Scotsman if you eat your porridge a certain way. But the obvious problem is such an act is arbitrary to what it means to be a Scotsman. However, if someone is born in Germany, has no Scottish heritage, and pretends they are a Scotsman, it is not a fallacy to say they aren’t, because you are not dismissing their claim on arbitrary reasons, but on sufficient reasons. That should be obvious. And likewise, if someone claims to be a Christian and doesn’t follow core doctrines of what it means to be a Christian, it is not a fallacy to point out they are only a Christian in name. As I was trying to explain to you at the end of the cross-examination if a self-proclaimed humanist went around killing religious people in the name of humanism you would obviously say they were not a real humanist, and rightly so because they are doing things that go against the core tenants of humanism. Why doesn’t the same logic apply when it is the other side?”
If Aron can dismiss self-proclaimed humanists who would not hold to core doctrines of humanism, I can, and do, easily dismiss Steve Anderson as a Christian since he advocates the opposite of what Jesus advocates (John 15:12).
Next, we get to the utter lie from Aron that initially convinced me to write this response. This is why I have no more respect for him. At 9:17 he begins by paraphrasing me, “…nowhere in the Bible does it say that children will go to hell if they don’t believe, but even if that is not in the Bible, you know that Christianity teaches that anyway and you told my wife that you even believe that yourself. So your hypocrisy is showing.”
Wow, what lie from the mouth of Aron, himself. This is absolutely incorrect, and you can verify that. As I pointed out in my video response, I made a video on hell, where I preach against that and pointed out the only people who are in hell are the people who want to be there. But it appears Aron doesn’t like to fact-check (as we have seen from this video already). He would rather just take hearsay on faith. Ironic. Aron, your hypocrisy is showing.
I don’t know what your wife thinks she heard, but you, of all people, should know you have to verify that claim, instead of just taking her word on faith. Interestingly enough, you just said yourself that I told you that the belief that children go to hell is not in the Bible. So you paraphrased me, then take on faith what your wife thinks she heard (she probably just didn’t understand what I was saying), which completely contradicts how you just paraphrased what I said. You didn’t see the problem?
At 9:46 Aron says, “You say that assuming a soul without evidence is justified because of your unwarranted assumption that it just not part of nature”.
It should be obvious I never said this (more lies from Aron) and you can verify that by looking at my video response. I do believe there is a soul because of evidence, and I did a whole series on it.
A lot of what follows is more unsupported assertions that I don’t care to address. At 11:10 Aron once again quote mines the Bible, “you cite in your vacuous attack a passage to love thy neighbor, which is a reference to community unity which you said was extrinsic, not intrinsic, and I think you are mistaken about that, but the verse you referred to was a repeated line that actually means, or actually meant originally, love your fellow Jew as yourself, which contradicts what Jesus said in Matthew 10 about how you are supposed to hate yourself and your whole family.”
It is hard to imagine how anyone can be this bad at reading the Bible. First, at this point, you should be able to note the obvious flaw in that he still doesn’t understand what extrinsic and intrinsic mean.
Second, Aron is quote mining the Old Testament and the New Testament this time. The Old Testament says to treat the foreigner as a native-born Jew (Leviticus 19:34) and to love them (Deuteronomy 10:19). In the New Testament, Jesus says to love your enemies (Matthew 5:43) and Paul says all people are equal (Galatians 2:28). Jesus also gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is about how your neighbor is the one who cares for you, regardless of ethnicity (Luke 10:25-37).
Third, Matthew 10 doesn’t say to hate yourself or your whole family. I think he meant Luke 14, which is obvious hyperbole. Aron’s research is very poor. Darrel Bock says, “The call to ‘hate’ is not literal but rhetorical” (Denny 1909–10). “Otherwise, Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor as oneself as a summation of what God desires makes no sense (Luke 10:25-37). The call to hate simply means to ‘love less’ (Gen. 29:30-31); Deut. 21:15-17; Judg. 14:16). The image is strong, but it is not a call to be insensitive or to leave all feeling behind…. This saying needs to be set in the context of it first-century setting” (12).
I’ll link to a video where this is explained more.
After this, Aron quote-mines the Bible again, ignoring Jesus’ command to preach the gospel to all nations (Luke 14:23, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:7-8). It is hard to imagine how he can quote mine this much and never check the scholarly literature.
Aron then gets mad that I called out his argument as being scientism, even though I never said he holds to scientism. What I actually said in my first response was, “These are elements of scientism seeping into Aron’s reasoning, even though he denies he holds to scientism. Science doesn’t explain everything, like philosophy of science.” Ironically, Aron says I am misrepresenting him. I never could have imagined a video could contain so much projection.
Aron then gets mad that I called him a liar, and I don’t care. As you can see from this blog post, his newest video is filled with more lies (like my views on hell). He says, “Christians often accuse me of lying every time they disagree with me.” Aron, this is not about disagreement. I called you a liar because you lied about what I said, put words in my mouth, and said I held to views I never have advocated. That is text-book lying. Get over it.
There is so much arrogance in what follows after this it is hardly worth addressing. Aron claims he has a special psychological place above religious people in terms of biases. However, no one can be as unbiased as he likes to pretend he is, and there are studies which show this. Other than noting it here, I am just going to skip ahead to facts instead of his impossible views about his psyche.
At 15:10, we finally get to what this whole dispute is about. Yes, it took him that long to get there. He says, “Now, on the definition of faith, this is where we actually agree, though you somehow don’t understand or didn’t realize that. You admitted that the common mainstream definition that I use for the word ‘faith’ in English is not incorrect.”
Now Aron said I should only accuse people of lying when they actually are, so here it goes: Aron you are lying, again. You are getting really bad at this. I never said the definition you use is the common mainstream definition. What I actually said in my first response was “I never asked what faith means, because in English that can have different meanings.” That doesn’t implicitly or directly mean the obscure definition you made up (see slide below) is mainstream:
Aron says he is justified in saying that religious faith is not based on scientific evidence. Tyler Vela already tried to point out the fallacious reasoning of his claim, because what he means by scientific evidence is testable or direct empirical evidence of God, which is a category error because God is not a natural substance that one can perform tests on. Plus, this is not what science is – this is just one aspect or way science can operate. I’ll link to a lecture on philosophy of science because Aron’s odd view of science would be laughed at by professional philosophers of science. In reality, theists never claimed there was scientific evidence for God, as Aron erroneously defined it. As I have argued in my videos, there is good evidence within the realm of science to make inferences to the best explanation of theism. So if we understand that science is much broader than Aron likes to pretend, I would not say there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence. If we use Aron’s narrow view of science, then he would be correct. That is where the equivocation fallacy comes in. In reality, I have several videos where I argued there is plenty of evidence within different fields of science to infer that theism is the best explanation.
At 15:32, Aron says, “You said faith is not about rational inquiry. It’s an act of volition, it’s a confidence or loyalty, and I agree completely.”
I am shocked because Aron has never implied this (as far as I have seen) up to this point. Let me just give some different ways (with links) to how he as described faith in the past.
Take a look at this conversation back from 2014, starting at 11:35. Aron says, “I am not just an atheist, I am also an a-pist-avist. Now an a-pist-avist is one who rejects faith as being the most dishonest position that is possible to have, and it doesn’t matter what source you look at to look it up. If you compare different definitions from scriptural references, form hymns, from sermons of theologians, past and present, so forth, you’re going to get a consensus definition. There is a second definition that exists only in the dictionary, which is a secure confidence in a person, place, or thing and the value or the trustworthiness of the thing, but that definition appears only in the dictionary, it doesn’t appear in the religious references. In the religious references, faith is a belief you assume, a secure conviction, that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.”
Later in the conservation at 44:04, Aron says, “My favorite definition of that would be an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and defended against all reason. But the one you’re going to find in most sources, the consensus is, that it is a stoic conviction that is assumed without evidence and is independent of evidence, and defended against all evidence.”
First of all, there is no evidence of any of these definitions Aron claims, which is probably why he is pretending this is the consensus but not backing it up with any actual sources we can check up on. I have already provided sources in my last response that faith (pistis) in the New Testament is just a synonym of confidence, loyalty, or trust.
But notice the impression Aron gave is that he is an a-pist-avist, as he defined elsewhere, as one without pistis. The obvious impression is Aron is implying pistis is faith without reason.
Now that was 5 years ago. Perhaps he changed his mind. But remember what he said in his first response at 28:04, “Contrary to what my critics want to believe, faith is not simply a synonym of trust. It takes both a prefix and a suffix to turn faith into trust. Faith is a complete trust that is not based on evidence.”
So we can see the same idea. He strongly implies the word for faith is not a synonym of trust, which is absurd. Maybe, the problem is how Aron words this. What he needs to say (as he dogmatically believes) is that a Christian’s confidence (pistis) in the truth of Christianity is a faith not based on evidence. Because in several of his past talks he keeps saying “faith is an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” Nowhere is the word faith defined this way, which is the problem. So he needs to stop saying that, and just say what he means – that he believes a Christian’s confidence (pistis) in the truth of Christianity is a faith not based on evidence. If Aron would have just said this instead of going around for years implying faith is not a basic synonym for trust, we would never have had this argument.
Getting back to Aron’s main video I am responding to, if he finally accepts faith is an act of volition, a confidence or loyalty, then maybe we have finally broken through (although this seems to change later in the video), or at least he realizes the way he has been wording it in the past lead to misunderstanding or confusion.
After this, Aron pretends he already gave definitions by scholars who use the definition that he uses, which is just false. None of the people he cited said, “faith is an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” Also, with regards to the definitions Aron keeps putting on the screen, why is it that there are no proper references? I would love to read, for example, the context of what Alister McGrath wrote to see if he is really implying that faith “is an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” Because on page 84 of his book, “Faith and Creeds,” he points out faith is just trusting in God. (13)
Given how much we have seen Aron quote mine the Bible, I wonder if the references have context to help explain what they mean more in-depth. And even if they don’t, they are not Greek scholars and we have plenty of evidence to show faith is not defined biblically as an “unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.”
Conversation with Dan Barker
So after this, Aron has two conversations, first with atheist activist Dan Barker, who has a degree in religion from Azusa Pacific University. Despite what Aron says in the video description underneath his video, Barker is not a Koine Greek scholar and Barker even admits that (21:25). A Greek scholar would be someone fluent in the ancient languages, not someone who just has a degree in religion. This is why I cited people like Craig Keener, who are fluent in Koine Greek and routinely translate when working on commentaries.
The first thing Barker says at 17:41 is, “I think what these people are asking for when they’re asking for an expert – they’re asking for the expert who agrees with them.”
This is so ironic because this is what Aron is doing. He went out and found people with degrees who already agree with him. So, Aron, your hypocrisy is showing. Why dismiss all the references to scholarly sources I provided?
Also remember, I am not asking for a theologian. Remember, originally I was just asking for a Koine Greek scholar who defined pistis as Aron does. Once we establish that, by pistis, the biblical authors never mean an “unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason,” then we can move on to if Christians have sufficient evidence. Remember, that was the main point of disagreement. If all Aron said was, “pistis just means loyalty or trust but I don’t think Christians have a good trust in their God,” none of this would have happened.
After this, Barker shows us why he is not an expert on this topic by going to Hebrews 11 and claiming it says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”
This is the problem – the word “hypostasis” is never defined as substance. This comes from the KJV, which has several translational errors. The word more or less means confidence, assurance or nature. Again, I addressed this before and I’ll link to a video where Michael S. Heiser addresses this as well. Now Heiser is not a Greek scholar, but he relies on other scholars in this talk to explain what is going on in Hebrews 11, which is what Barker and Aron Ra should do.
Let’s remember Barker is the guy who, when debating New Testament scholar James White, quoted Justin Martyr to claim Jesus was based on pagan deities. Then in the cross-examination, White asks Barker if he had read the first apology of Justin and Barker said he had not. Wonderful research from Dan Barker.
Also, Barker says there are several definitions of pistis, which I agree with. However, never once is it used in the New Testament or Greek literature to mean “an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” That was my point. There is not much more here worth addressing.
Conversation with Dr. Joshua Bowen
Next up, Aron has a conversation with Dr. Joshua Bowen, again, not specifically a Koine Greek scholar. He is a well-trained Assyriologist, but he at least does have knowledge of the Koine Greek language.
Now this conversation left me puzzled as to how it helped Aron’s case. Let me remind you our chief complaint with Aron is that he is not properly defining the word pistis, or what the New Testament authors mean when they use the word. It never means, “an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” I never hear Dr. Bowen confirm or remotely imply this is the correct way to understand pistis in the New Testament. In fact, he uses great examples of what pistis means in the New Testament, that, not only would I use, but imply pistis is not based on no evidence or is a forced belief. Maybe Dr. Bowen can point this out to me, but I don’t see how he helps Aron’s case.
For example, at around 34:30 he gives a great analogy that faith is like sitting in a chair you never sat in. That fits exactly with what I have been trying to say. You may have faith the chair will hold you up, but any rational person would use their intellect or prior experience to reason the chair is probably trustworthy. You don’t just jump in without reason and defend the chair against all reason.
After this, Dr. Bowen talks about Abraham and others who believed or had faith in God and the future promises he made. These examples come up in Hebrews. However, God never asked these people to believe without evidence. The stories include the evidence that they were visited by a deity and they were told to trust him. That was the evidence they were given and then asked to believe.
Let me give a similar analogy I have often used. Imagine you are married to someone in the CIA, and they contact you to tell you they are still alive, but the news is going to report that they died in a secret mission. So you have been given the evidence or the assurance they are alive. Yet the news stories seem very convincing, and they even show what appears to be the very real dead body of your spouse.
So are you denying evidence over faith in your spouse, or do you have the testimony of your spouse as evidence to overcome other things that would indicate the opposite is true? The Faith of Abraham (and the rest of the examples in Hebrews 11, as well 2 Peter 3) fit in with this same idea. They walked and talked with God, as Dr. Bowen said (if the stories are true), and that gave them good reasons to trust or place their faith in God. Again, I fail to see how Dr. Bowen helps Aron’s case. He is using examples and analogies similar to what I have used in my video on faith to try and explain this.
Now after this, the conversation gets more philosophical because Dr. Bowen starts to talk more about the reasons Christians place their faith in Christ, which again goes back to what I said in my first response. You could say our reasons or the evidence we provide is not sufficient to place faith in Christ, but it is clear the Biblical authors never encourage faith blindly, but on reason or pieces of evidence offered, which I explained in detail in my video.
Dr. Bowen suggests that what we Christians use to place our faith in Christ is subjective. This is why I said the conversation becomes more philosophical. Now, first off, the Bible never says to believe because of subjective experience. In fact, we can see the opposite (John 14:11; Acts 13:30-31; 17:31; Exodus 9:14). We are called to believe in the evidence provided and to follow the example of men who believed on the evidence provided to them. So my problem is if Dr. Bowen is correct, where is the passage where the Bible says believe on subjectivity? We cannot cherry-pick passages out and ignore other parts where believers are encouraged to believe based on evidence. Again, hopefully, he can comment below and clarify.
Remember Acts 17:11, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” So these Jews were nobler for fact-checking Paul and verifying if his words aligned with what was already taught.
Second, are we not allowed to believe because of evidence outside of our own subjectively? That is what I do on my channel: offer the evidence for the truth of Christianity. Never once have I needed to bring in personal experiences. So why can’t my faith be based on that? Again, you may think it is insufficient, but it is not my own personal experiences of the divine.
Oddly enough, in this conversation, Aron says at 41:30, “the root meaning of pistis can be summed up as convincing or persuasion via force. That forced trust, forced belief is the meaning of pistis.”
No… And remember Aron said earlier in his video, “You said faith is not about rational inquiry. It’s an act of volition, it’s a confidence or loyalty and I agree completely,” but now he is saying it is forced trust. He is adding “forced” into the word when that is not the case.
This is the problem, Aron, and why we have to keep calling you out on this. You said you understand pistis just means confidence or loyalty, but then, in the same video, you change that to say it means “forced trust”. So which is it? The truth is that pistis just means trust or faith, not forced trust or forced faith. Aron says he was researching this but doesn’t give a source for this definition of “forced trust,” so I guess we have to take his word on this.
After this, Dr. Bowen gives a great analogy to explain faith, and I approve entirely (again, I’m not sure how this is helping Aron’s case). He says to picture a boy on a ledge and his father is seven feet below on the ground and tells his son to jump. The boy has to take a leap of faith. But realize what the analogy is saying. My question for Dr. Bowen and Aron is: does the boy jump without evidence? Of course not. He can see his father and he can draw on past experience that his father loves him and wants to catch him. Now does the boy know for sure that his father will catch him? Also, no. But he probably would have good reasons to trust his father, which is the point of Christianity. It is not “forced trust.” We argue there is sufficient evidence to trust God and take the leap, just like with the analogy.
There is not much more worth addressing here that I have not already addressed. I want to remind people, I do have scientific evidence that leads to theism. I just reject Aron’s definition of what constitutes as scientific evidence. Scientific evidence is, but is also beyond, what is empirical and testable. When you study philosophy of science and the differences between degenerate and progressive research programs, you understand scientific evidence also relies on certain criteria, like parsimony, explanatory scope, and explanatory power. This old idea, that science is just what you can see or test, has been rejected now. It is much more complicated.
So what I argue is that we have plenty of evidence to make the inference to the best explanation that God exists. This is what I present:
The last point worth addressing is a peculiar point Dr. Bowen makes at the end. He says, “Christians, you do a disservice to put down faith like this. That’s how this comes across to me. This is my opinion. When you try to minimize faith and say, ‘no, no, no, you get tons of evidence with faith. That’s the whole point, you get all this evidence.’ I think that is doing it a disservice. You have evidence of the fidelity of the object of your faith. The thing that’s allowing you to move forward, but the things that you’re believing in, the promises that are being given are things that you can’t see and I think you do it a disservice to downplay that because I think that’s actually really beautiful…”
This doesn’t make sense, because Dr. Bowen doesn’t have faith in Christ. This is like if Dr. Bowen said, “here is this beautiful pie, it’s so wonderful, but I wouldn’t trust that on my plate.” Who is going to eat that pie? I would not place my faith in Christ if there wasn’t enough evidence as the New Testament teaches (John 14:11; Acts 13:30-31; 17:31), and I have a whole channel where I present the evidence that Christian theism is the best explanation. So in response, I will simply say I am not going to downplay the evidence my faith is based on because that would be not beautiful or rational.
In conclusion, as much as Aron wants to go on about how there is no evidence, he is only preaching to his audience, because we keep presenting the evidence to make the rational inference to theism. If we are wrong, the challenge is to find a better explanation of the data we present. From his video as a whole, Aron’s research is subpar and there is no excuse for his constant cherry-picking of the facts. I’ll leave with the words of atheist Tim O’Neill, who wrote a response to Aron on his misunderstandings of history:
“So the issue is not just that [Aron Ra] is terrible at history and believes many stupid and erroneous things. It is not even that he is a lazy researcher and poor thinker who does not bother to check things that he finds appealing. It is that he peddles this gibberish to an equally uncritical audience of thousands and they lap it up like the worst kind of fundamentalist fanatics. ‘Aron Ra’ is the problem of New Atheist bad history, embodied.”
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12. “Luke: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.” Luke: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, by Darrell L. Bock, Baker Books, 1994, pp. 1284–1285.
13. “Faith and Creeds: a Guide for Study and Devotion.” Faith and Creeds: a Guide for Study and Devotion, by Alister E. McGrath, Westminster John Knox Press, 2013, p. 84.