Feb 212014

Sorry for the late notice on this but we wanted to let you know about the live-streamed debate going on this evening between Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig.   The debate will focus on cosmology and whether this gives any evidence for a God. I know one of WLC’s favourite arguments is this (Kalam Cosmological Argument) ”Everything that begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe had a cause, [therefore God]”   WLC seems to think God creating the universe via the big bang is the MOST logical explaination.   Should be interesting to see someone tackle just this one argument from WLC, in all his other debates I feel there is too much other stuff thrown about and nothing is focussed in on.

If you want to watch it is streaming live tonight  at 6pm Central Time.

Let us know your thoughts after the debate in our comment section.


 Posted by at 2:04 PM
Feb 142014

So, we all know that Christmas has it’s roots in other festivals, from solstice to saturnalia;  Easter traced to Ostara and spring equinox, but what about the other Christian holidays, such as Saint Valentine’s Day?

Today, couples everywhere are  heading out for romantic dinners, date nights, and exchanging expensive gifts with each other for Valentine’s Day.   Most people have been taught that this is a day to remember the Christian Saint by the name of Valentinus, who performed secret marriages during Roman Emporer Claudius II’s ban on marriages.   Valentinus was caught, and executed on February 14th 269 CE.   In 469CE Emperor Gelasius declared February 14th a holy day in honour of Valentinus,  replacing the already existing holiday to the Roman god Lupercus.   There are also stories of two other Christian priests being martyred (that were also called Valentinus), one story tells of the priest being jailed and falling in love with the jail keeper’s daughter, signing his love letters to her ”from your Valentinus”.

Wait, back up….what?  An already existing holiday?

Yup, that’s right.   There were actually two already existing holidays at this time, one on February 14th which celebrated Juno Fructifier (aka Juno Februata), Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses, and another during February 13-15th when a feast was held to celebrate Lupercus (aka Faunus or Pan) called the Feast of Lupercalia .   Both festivals were to do with fertility rituals, ensuring fertility for the women for the upcoming year.  In one of the rituals a man would choose a name out of a box and then was paired with that woman for the rest of the festival (or the year).  In another,  women were encouraged to bare their backs to be spanked by men using a goat hide made into strips in order to promote fertility.

So are you up for the traditional ways to celebrate these festivals, being paired up with a stranger and then using whips?  Those pagans sure had some interesting party ideas!


 Posted by at 10:27 PM
Feb 052014

Ken Ham Bill Nye Debate

In the debate aired February 4th, 2014 between Bill Nye and Ken Ham regarding creationism, I feel it goes without saying that Bill Nye came out on top. There are many who felt Nye should not do this as it will lend too much attention to what is considered pseudo-science and also fatten the coffers of an organization may soon run out of money. Personally, I think that distracts from crucial issue. There are people in major positions of government authority who believe in creationism and, due to their positions, have the ability to influence laws and policies governing it that then affect other.

Among the many mistakes that Ken Ham made, setting aside the numerous logical fallacies, was constantly pushing the Christian bible. The Intelligent Design movement in the US has been trying to separate itself from any particular religion because of the first amendment issues with promoting one religion by the state. Ham continuously repeated that mistake throughout his presentation which was incredibly weak on evidence.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:10 PM
Jan 242014

The University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics (UAAA) and the University group Power To Change held a debate on Thursday January 23rd between Christian Apologist Michael Horner and Reasonable Doubts Podcaster Justin Schieber.  It was well run, with the UofA debate club moderating for us, and despite a few feedback/sound system issues everything ran very smoothly.

God Debate

Photo Credit to Rodrigo de la Jara

A standard model was used for the debate, with opening statements from each, two opportunities to rebut the other, a question cross examination and then final remarks.  We were only given 30 minutes for questions from the audience however, and this was the big downfall of the evening as only three questions per view were able to be addressed (with double that again who were turned away due to lack of time).

So let’s look at the arguments.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:05 PM
Jan 072014

We’ve just been notified of an event that we think many of our members may be interested in attending.  The University AAA is hosting this debate event next Thursday January 23rd at 6:30pm.  The admission fee is $2 for students and $5 for non-students, which will be donated to Doctors Without Borders.

Debate Jan 23

The debate is focused specifically on the Christian God and Michael Horner from Power To Change will be on the Christian side with Justin Schieber (from the Reasonable Doubts podcasts) arguing for the atheist side.

A group of us will meet at the University LRT at 5:45 to head over together if you are unsure of the layout of the U of A.

Here are directions to  The Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS):  http://www.science.ualberta.ca/en/CCIS/CCISBookings/Directions.aspx

Check our events listing on facebook to discuss car pools/meetups etc.

 Posted by at 10:21 AM
Oct 202013

Ahy? Question Everything.You have probably seen these signs around Edmonton churches:

Kerri went to find out, and let the rest of us know, what’s going on.


The signs are presumably a reference to my favorite bible quote, 1 Thessalonians 5:21:

“Question everything, hold fast that which is good”.

I’ve always wanted to cross stitch it and hang it proudly on my wall, mostly to see the reactions of relatives who also have crossed stitched bible passages on their walls. I went to their webpage http://questioneverythingab.ca/ And the first thing I saw was this:
Alpha Course opening webpageWhat’s going on is a 7-9 week course on Christianity called the Alpha course, which has been around for years, but is having a big campaign in Alberta this fall. It’s a series of video lectures, sometimes with a weekend getaway in the middle. There are 158 Alpha courses being offered in the Edmonton area this fall. I found one at a convenient time and location for me. The website said “contact the organizers or just show up”.

Continue reading »

Oct 102013

During book club recently one of our members, Kerri, shared with us her ”best explaination for the empty tomb”….which doesn’t include resurrection being the answer.  So what did happen to the body of Jesus (assuming he existed in the first place) ?  Read her argument:

”I think every non-believer is tired of hearing about the historical evidence for the empty tomb.

empty tomb

Model of the empty tomb from Jesusland – Six daily crucifixion re-enactments for the kids!

The argument goes that Roman and/or Jewish authorities could easily have quashed Christianity’s claims of the resurrection by bringing forward the dead body of Jesus. The fact that they didn’t do so implies that they did not have it. Anyone who did have the body would have great motivation to bring it forward to gain favour from the Roman Empire. If the Christian followers had taken it that would imply that they knew the resurrection was a sham and yet continued to martyr themselves for something they believed to be untrue. So where was the body?

They generally include the claim that we have better historical record of Jesus’s empty tomb than of any other event of that time. I’m not sure exactly what they mean by this, I can’t find any sense in which it is true. Furthermore, the only reason it even comes close to being true is because early Christians spent so much time destroying any documentation they felt might undermine or compete with their religion.

Now I don’t believe that the testimony of a few people recorded a long time after the event meets the threshold of evidence that I would require to believe in resurrection. But obviously the people bringing up this argument do. And arguing that their book may be insufficient in any way never goes anywhere.

But the claim is that there is no explanation for the facts presented other than resurrection. To defeat this claim requires only a single alternative explanation. You don’t need an explanation you believe in, you need alternative explanation that your opponent believes in.

So does the Bible give us any alternative explanations for where that body could have gone? Try this one:

  1. Jesus repeatedly made statements such as “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.(John 6:54)
  2. Five thousand people were present for these statements. Twelve of these people were present for the bread and wine at the last supper. The time between the last supper and the crucifixion was short and eventful. It is likely that at least a few of the 5000 (not to mention all of the people that heard about it secondhand), did not get the news that Jesus actually meant bread and wine representing and/or miraculously transformed into his flesh and blood.
  3. Upon learning that Jesus is dead, and believing that eating his flesh and blood is necessary for eternal life, these followers would realise that there is not going to be enough flesh and blood to go around. This provides substantial motivation to get into the tomb and steal the body.  Belief in eternal life is sufficient motivation to risk their lives, including bribing, tricking, or even killing any guards that may have been present.
  4. Under Roman law, the punishment for cannibalism was death. Under Jewish law, the punishment for cannibalism was death. Stealing and eating the body of the Messiah would certainly not make them popular with the Christians, especially once the bread and wine information got around. Therefore the people responsible would have good motivation to keep quiet. Furthermore, there would be no identifiable body left to bring forward after the flesh was eaten.

Not only does this seem to be a solid alternative explanation for the evidence presented, but it follows logically from beliefs most Christians already hold. This causes them to actually listen to what you are saying and question their own beliefs. Which is a good start in actually getting somewhere.

Note: John 6 is one of the rare sections that Catholic and Orthodox denominations actually take more literally than their evangelical counterparts. Evangelicals are used to arguing with Catholics that Jesus did not mean that you literally had to eat his flesh and blood, therefore the Eucharist is symbolic not literal. However for our purposes, it does not matter what Jesus meant, all we require is that at least 1 of those 5000 witnesses, or the people that heard about it second hand, took him literally. And John records that many people were disgusted by the suggestion of cannibalism and left. This makes it difficult to deny that at least 1 person could have taken it literally.

Note 2: Try not to start with the simple answer to their question for shock value (“he was cannibalised”). The whole point is to break through the stereotype of disrespectful atheists who know nothing about their religion. The shock value you are looking for is the realisation that you actually know their book fairly well, and hopefully this will get you to a place where they actually listen and think about what you are saying. From a believer’s perspective there is no more effective argument than one from the Bible. That is why can’t seem to get out of the habit when talking to someone that doesn’t believe in the Bible.”



 Posted by at 8:12 AM
Oct 072013

A Reasonable Response

We are currently reading William Lane Craig’s latest offering ”A Reasonable Response” for book club.   Here is a little run down on the guy if you aren’t familiar with him:

 Explaining Dr. Bill

 The world’s preeminent Christian apologist, William Lane Craig, has written 30 books. His most recent triumph, A Reasonable Response, reads like a first-year university text  and sports glowing endorsements from several Christian academics and student leaders. Explaining why this should be so goes a long way toward explaining the phenom that is Dr. Bill.

The book’s co-author, Joseph Gorra, is the Manager of Academic Programs and Research at Biola University. William Craig’s main gig these days is as a Research Professor at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology. (Craig only deigns to teach a few weeks a year at Biola’s Los Angeles campus, pining “the classroom is not my calling.”)

Biola U (a.k.a. Bible Institute of L.A.) is a fully accredited, private Christian university offering 145 academic programs of “Biblically-centered education” to 6,000 students.

Although prominent in its field, Biola is hardly unique. The USA’s 900 accredited religiously-affiliated, post-secondary educational institutions claim a cumulative enrolment of 1.7 million students. Of these institutions 200 are Bible colleges, 150 are seminaries and 255 are Catholic universities or colleges.

The main lobbyist for the USA’s Protestant post-secondary schools, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, lists 106 member institutions 17 of whom are accredited up to the granting of PhDs. (Accreditation means more than authorization to issue broadly recognized degrees; it also means tax exemptions, government grants and the right to participate in subsidized student loan programs.)

Nor is the USA a unique bastion of “faith intentional” higher education. Globally there are 1,358 Catholic institutes of higher learning orbiting the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Academy of Science and the International Federation of Catholic Universities. These 1,358 institutes vary from full-campus affairs like Washington DC’s Catholic University of America to small colleges embedded in larger secular universities like St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta.

While still in his late teens Craig enrolled in a Christian college and soon became active in the debating team and later in the continent-wide Campus Crusade for Christ. The thesis earning Craig his PhD in Philosophy sought to prove God’s existence using modern cosmological arguments i.e. the Big Bang theory and the Second Law of Thermodynamics etc.

Dr. Craig then spent several years at Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilian University (LMU) acquiring a PhD in Theology. Here his thesis concerned the historicity of Jesus. His advisor, Professor Pannenberg, argued the resurrection was historically factual even if the Gospel accounts of it were fictional.

LMU was launched in 1472 after Bavaria’s Duke Ludwig received the appropriate papal concession. LMU repaid this debt by playing a major role in the counter-reformation. Today, LMU is a taxpayer-funded 18-faculty, 48,000-student colossus employing 3,600 academics including 700 full professors. Its founding Theology faculty has been bifurcated into Catholic and Protestant faculties which in turn compliment a separate omnibus Philosophy/Science/Religious Studies faculty. The Protestant Theology faculty boasts of structured collaboration projects with the Cultural Studies faculty and with the Philosophy of Science sub-faculty; the latter project being facilitated by the German Research Foundation (GRF). Incidentally, LMU is an internationally renowned theoretical physics powerhouse employing some 300 researchers (GRF-financed) to agonize over astro-physics, quarks, quantum theory and abstract mathematical physics.

After leaving LMU Dr. Bill spent 1987 to 1994 as a researcher at Belgium’s Catholic University of Louvain. This notorious reactionary forge was co-founded in 1425 by the Duke of Brabant and Pope Martin V. Louvain U is currently home to 28,000 students and a staff of 5,600 including 2,000 with PhDs. The university’s core “Organizing Authority” is a cabal of four Bishops the most senior of whom (and Louvain’s Chancellor) is Cardinal Leonard.

In 2011 Louvain hosted a yearlong exhibit honouring their illustrious alumnus, Georges Lemaitre. Monseigneur Lemaitre was a student and later physics prof at Louvain before ascending to the Presidency of the Pontifical Academy of Science. As the exhibit proudly advertised, it was Lemaitre who concocted the Big Bang theory.

Leaving Louvain Dr. Bill returned to the USA with nary a thought of forsaking the Christian-academic mothership. His 100 published articles are mainly in Christian-academic journals. His much-vaunted debates and speeches are mostly at Christian colleges. Students and professors at these institutes form the target market for A Reasonable Response.

If you are interested in joining book club check out the tab above to get more details.

 Posted by at 11:47 AM
Nov 202012

Address by Minister Baird at Religious Liberty Dinner

May 24, 2012 – Washington, D.C.

Check Against Delivery

It is a real pleasure to be part of this year’s Religious Liberty Dinner.

This is a marquee event on the calendar for those who care about human rights and, especially, freedom of religion.

So I would like to thank the organizers and their team for the invitation to be a part of tonight.

I love being here in Washington.

This is a capital city that embodies the hopes and aspirations of a truly great nation—even in times of political gridlock.

The United States, of course, is a country built on the very notion of religious freedom. Continue reading »

Oct 212012

I grew up in rural Alberta. The sort of community where my mom once had to sit me down and explain that Catholics were real Christians, and that my friends and their parents were mistaken. But, I haven’t been to church since my early teens.

So visiting Southminster-Steinhauer United Church with four other atheists last Sunday was a bit of a shock to the system. When we arrived, Rev. Charles Bidwell sat down with us to answer questions we had about the church and what to expect. The shock started when he mentioned (within hearing distance of other church members) that he considers himself an atheist Christian. And then went on to explain that within the church, Jesus is considered someone who had some useful things to say, and wasn’t related to God (if there is a god) in any way. I expected that it would be one thing to have that conversation in limited company, but that the gathering (service) and the congregants in general would be more traditionally Christian.

They weren’t. Continue reading »