Three items from Investigator, showing how The Advertiser and other publications hinder religious debate..
1 Religious Debate Hindered By Undeclared Policy
2 Religious Debate Hindered Part 2
3 Religious Debate Hindered part 3
RELIGIOUS DEBATE HINDERED
BY UNDECLARED POLICY
(Investigator 58, 1998 January)
THE ADVERTISER POLICY
Letters to the editor of The Advertiser often raise interesting points which provoke interesting replies. But that's where it stops!
Sometimes the replies include a misunderstanding of something in the first letter. Yet the first writer rarely seems to write again to clarify the point. He rarely responds to the response.
Readers may watch the letters column for weeks to get further enlightenment and not get it.
What's going on?
Roy Pain who writes regularly to The Advertiser explained:...the policy of The Advertiser is NOT to publish rebuttals to responses! The Editors of The Advertiser are unwilling to make this policy known in print (they would not send me a copy in writing) and I know that most readers of The Advertiser are completely unaware of this fact just as I was.
THE ADVERTISER POLICY EXAMINED
Roy Pain found about The Advertiser policy by phoning them. A letter by Mr Pain to Chris Brice (Literary Editor & Acting Letters Editor) is here cited selectively:…the great majority of your readers are entirely unaware of this policy and expect that responses to responses can be published and that if such response to a response is not forthcoming, it indicates that the response cannot be answered by the writer of the original published letter – both conclusions, due to your policy, may be false. Thus many readers unwittingly WASTE TIME writing responses to their original published letter completely unaware that they have no hope whatsoever of having their second letter published…
Do you think that this is fair or friendly? Readers…believe that what they write is worth writing and so can spend many hours writing responses to responses – which is, because of your undeclared existing policy, in fact a complete and utter waste of time and effort on their part…
Do you accept that you have a duty of care to protect me against the publication in your newspaper of any purported response to my letter when such response is not according to the rules of fair debate but a misrepresentation of my case and, consequently, makes me appear to be in the wrong or unreasonable? – and…then you owe me the opportunity to have my rebuttal published…?
LETTERS ON CHRISTIANITY IN THE ADVERTISER
A series of letters about the Bible and Christianity appeared in the letters section of The Advertiser during 1997.
It was decided to attempt to reprint some of them in Investigator Magazine.
Some writers gave permission. Some refused. Some could not be found or did not reply.
The yeses are reprinted below in full and some others – so as to maintain continuity – are given a brief summary.
Andrew Buxton (April 17) wrote that impacts by asteroids could explain Bible accounts (Joshua 10; Kings 20; Isaiah 38) of the Sun standing still or moving backwards.Avery Hilditch (May 17) replied that the Bible provides no testable evidence for the existence of any god. If it's enough simply to quote a book then it follows there are also elves and goblins. Mr Hilditch requested evidence for God which can be confirmed "independently without quoting the Bible."
A Myth (May 6)
In response to the letter from Andrew Buxton (The Advertiser, 17/4/97) concerning the earths rotation being stopped by an asteroid strike quoting the Bible as evidence of such an event, might I suggest that, like most of the biblical stories, this is simply a myth.
Unfortunately, people who make such claims tend to conveniently overlook certain fundamental laws of physics, in particular something called inertia.
Had the earth stopped spinning, an enormous amount of energy would have had to be dissipated. Everyone and everything on the surface of the earth, which a few moments before would have been moving at 1600km/h, would have been thrown bodily into the air! Everything, even the greatest mountain chains would have been torn loose, while the waters of the seas and oceans would have been spilled out of their beds and formed tidal waves several kilometres high.
The event would have been noticed by everyone on earth. It would not have been a matter of seeing an asteroid in the sky, rather it would have been "whoops, there goes Mt Everest" as it flew overhead.
Not only that but we still would be able to see evidence of the event. Principally, the event would have leveled the mountain ranges and left the earth with an almost completely flat surface.
Second, and more importantly, all animal and human life would have been exterminated in such a cataclysm. The fact that we are here to discuss the issue, is evidence that it did not occur.
There are many more logical explanations for primitive stories and myths, and one is on rather insecure ground when citing the Bible as evidence of such events.
Two challenges (May 12)
L. EDDIE (The Advertiser, 5/5/97) declares that he believes the greatest myth of all – that stories in the Bible are mainly myths. He is likely to believe two other great myths, namely the "big bang" and "evolution" stories.
Because some human minds cannot comprehend the existence of an all-powerful God who not only can create matter out of nothing and set in place laws governing the normal operation of that matter but who can also, on occasions, overrule those laws (ie work miracles) for his own purposes – those human minds declare that God does not exist.
That is, if human minds can fully understand God, he exists – if they cannot, he does not exist. Of course, if human minds could fully understand God, he would not be God. God has done something else that the mere human mind cannot fully comprehend – cause to be written a book which describes for humans in non-technical language what he has done and why.
May I now throw out two challenges to all who disagree with what I have stated above: give written proof in these columns that any story in the Bible is not true; and declare where the pre-existent matter (cosmic gas, sea water, atoms, quarks, gluons, etc) essential for either the "big bang" of "evolution" hypotheses, came from. Until readers can do either of the above, please do not rubbish and ridicule the only source of true and testable information about origins that humans possess.
(Dr) ROY W. PAIN
Ken Martyn (May 26) responding to Avery Hilditch claimed that the Bible stories are as certain as the records about Julius Caesar, Oliver Cromwell and William the Conqueror. He claimed that the flood, Jericho’s destruction and the crucifixion are established by archaeology and history.
The right to complete freedom of religion (May 17)
Media reports of recent Adelaide constitutional debate and publicity on the choice of monarchist and republican delegates failed to indicate any interest in the right of the Australian citizen to complete freedom of religion. Complete freedom of religion does not exist in Australia. Only freedom of religion at a price.
Active Christian participants number fewer than 5 per cent of the population. No authoritative figures are available on active participation by nominal members of non-Christian religions. On a population basis, it would be doubtful whether this participation would approach 1 per cent.
Obviously, most Australians choose, for whatever reasons, to refrain from religious participation. Yet they are compelled by law to effectively subsidise the insignificant minority.
Australian rating law, inherited from the strangely feudalistic British democracy, precludes all "bona fide" religious properties from paying local council rates, though still benefiting from all council amenities. Thus, in any local council area, all house-holders, owners and tenants (rates included in rent) together with businesses share the annual burden from which religious properties are exempt.
Can there be true freedom of religion when one is forced to subsidise such an insignificant minority - a minority whose leaders may be expected to vigorously defend the status quo; a lobby group with a power out of all proportion to its true significance in Australian society?
A future constitution should remedy this undemocratic anomaly if we are to claim full freedom of religion.
RICHARD D.F. BOWEN
Scientifically challenged (May 23)
It's interesting that Dr Roy Pain (The Advertiser, 12/5/97) knows about quarks and gluons (still hypothetical) but his beliefs lead him to demand "proof" that they weren't "created".
One might think that geological/palaeontological knowledge, the fossil record, radio-carbon dating and recent Hubble discoveries provide substantial evidence (as close to "proof" as one can obtain) that the universe and life on earth are billions of years old. But no, The Advertiser is apparently deluged with letters about The Flood, Noah and hibernating two-by-twos and the risible notion that it all started about 6000 years ago, ex nihilo.
No one can take an uncritical view of the Church's founding document, every page being full of the cultural signs and assumptions of those who wrote it (often pseudonymously). Liberal Christians reject the Bible's assumptions about women, crime and punishment, the environment and have increasingly rejected literal and supernatural readings of the text.
We no longer believe epilepsy is caused by demons, prayer keeps alive chronically sick children and holds up the course of the sun, or the allegory of water being turned into wine.
Biblical stories are an important part of the fabric of the faith and many of them are not to be regarded as true in any real sense.
Naturally, this will be rejected by the belief-driven and the scientifically challenged; mysteries are not necessarily miracles, and myths, which have been and are culturally important, are not expected to conform to historical reality.
The bigoted mind is like the eye’s pupil: the more light it receives, the more it will contract.
JOHN H. WILLIAMS
Bruce Adams (June 11) replying to T D Mather claimed that archaeological discoveries support the Old and New Testament. He quoted Professor of Ancient History, Paul Maler: "Before you people pass on, there will be new dramatic archaeological discoveries, which, if the ratio holds, will eight out of 10 times support and endorse the biblical record."
Myths and stories (June 2)
In reply to Ken Martyn (The Advertiser, 26/5/97), the date of Christ's birth is unknown. What he looked like is unknown. Acts 5:30 states Jesus was hung from a tree (contradicting the crucifixion). The Biblical flood has not been proven. How was the Biblical flood recorded in other parts of the world when, according to the Bible, the only people to survive were Noah and his family? What archaeological evidence proves that the destruction of Jericho was caused by God?
All ancient civilizations attributed events to the gods that they worshipped. Does archaeological evidence of events attributed to ancient Greek, Egyptian or Incan gods prove their existence? Does archaeological evidence prove Aboriginal Dreamtime stories?
The date and route of Exodus is unknown. Mount Sinai cannot be located. The number of people involved in the Exodus increased over the centuries. The date of Moses’s birth is unknown. Why is there so much inknown data in association with important Biblical events/persons?
Did Brutus and Cassius actually refer to a clock as depicted in Shakespeare's historically recorded Julius Caesar?
There are many myths/stories associated with the Bible which are unproven. The myths and stories of the Bible do not prove the existence of God.
Archaeological evidence and historical writings and goodness are also associated with non-Christian religions.
Unifying message (June 7)
Richard Morris (The Advertiser, 30/5/97) suggests that religion has made major contributions to society's existence but it must also be acknowledged that some of the most horrific and cruel conflicts and events in history have been the result of differing religious opinions.
Until the symbols and metaphors used in all scripture are recognised and understood, the aggression and conflict between nations, religions and churches will continue.
History, geography and myth are intricately and purposely interwoven and deeper truths are "clouded over" within these sometimes strange and seemingly conflicting "stories".
The purely literal meaning of the texts must be penetrated. Only then will the unifying message of the metaphors and symbols become apparent.
Empirical knowledge (June 12)
The widely differing three-page appraisals of God (The Advertiser, 24/5/97) prompt an alternative view.
Belief in the existence of the God Yahweh of the Old Testament made possible the barbaric atrocities of the Crusades and the Inquisition. Those who believe that the Bible and the Koran are God-given are responsible for the conflicts in Ireland/Ulster, Israel/Palestine, Croatia/Bosnia and the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.
Some people still believe that a supernatural, loving God is responsible for the earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, bacteria, viruses and diseases which afflict all living organisms.
One day, children will no longer be brainwashed into believing supernatural nonsense and adults will use their intelligence to make a far better world based on empirical knowledge.
President, Atheist Foundation of Australia
Keith Cornish has apparently had the same problem as Roy Pain – TheAdvertiser not publishing replies to responses. In a letter to Investigator Mr Cornish says:I find it most frustrating that letters on important subjects with viewpoints at variance with those of the Editor are not printed and letters on trivia or inane religious concepts are given preference.Mr Cornish sent Investigator a copy of The Australian Atheist (December 1996) in which he and another letter writer continued their disagreement in more detail.
Finally two of Mr Pain's letters submitted to The Advertiser but not published:
Please address the basic challenges (1997 May 23)
It amazes me that Avery Hilditch (The Advertiser, 17/5/97), Damon Sillet (The Advertiser, 19/5/97) and John H Williams (The Advertiser, 23/5/97) can each so blatantly side-step my two specific and clearly stated challenges (The Advertiser, 12/5/97) ie to provide in these columns scientific, logical or any other convincing proof that any individual Bible record is not factually true or to state where the pre-existent matter (essential for both the "big bang" and "evolution" hypotheses) came from. …
I should add that Damon misrepresents my second challenge – I do not ask (at this stage) for readers to prove in these columns that the 'big bang' or 'evolution' occurred, only to state the origin of the pre-existent matter upon which both of these hypotheses absolutely depend. Avery challenges me to provide him with ‘testable evidence of the existence of God – evidence that anyone can confirm independently’. I would be most happy to do this but only after Avery addresses my two most basic challenges. I request John to indeed examine the Bible 'critically' and ‘scientifically’ and provide readers with valid evidence that even one Bible record is unreliable.
(Dr) Roy W Pain
1997 June 4I would like the three readers who responded to my letter of 12/5/97, and any other interested readers, to know that the reason why I have not responded further to their contributions is that such follow up is not permitted by the Editorial policy of The Advertiser.
(Dr) Roy W Pain
RELIGIOUS DEBATE HINDERED
(Investigator 59, 1998 March)
The previous edition of Investigator showed that:"the policy of The Advertiser is NOT to publish rebuttals to responses!" (p. 24)This policy applies to the Letters to the Editor section. It causes frustration when persons feel they have adequate replies to a criticism but their evidence is not published.
Of course many letter writers do not even get their first letter published!
An invitation is now extended to Investigator readers to get letters sent to newspapers, whether the letters were published or not, printed (or reprinted) in Investigator. Letters not previously published may be edited. The topics have to be on religion, the supernatural and the paranomal.
Below are three letters. The first, by Keith Cornish, was in the Sunday Mail of December 28. The other two seem based on Investigator material and were not published.
Religion is divisive
Since Father Christmas is so religiously offensive, Australia could change to a local mythical creature – a bunyip attended by kangaroos could be commercially viable.
There is a large group of people who consider the hoodwinking of children to be morally indefensible and would rather see parents and guardians given the credit for the gifts.
Religion is speculative and is intrinsically divisive, depending for its existence on the indoctrination of infants. This practice ought to be discontinued, for we live in a natural world of scientific facts – not myths and fantasy.
Children deserve to be free from manipulation and exploitation.
Keith S Cornish,
president, Atheist Foundation of Australia,
Tobacco and sex
American tobacco companies have conceded smoking is addictive and agreed to pay $490 billion. The Attorney-General of Mississippi called this "the most historic public health achievement in history."
Another addictive activity is premarital and promiscuous sex. This is advocated in plain statements and implied approval in hundreds of magazines and other media.
Syphilis killed over 100 million people this century. Sexually transmitted hepatitis is close behind. Various herpes viruses may be linked to heart disease and alzheimers in later life.
Twenty other sexually transmitted conditions reduce the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people yearly.
Extensive use of antibiotics to treat the effects promotes the evolution of drug-resistant strains of disease-causing organisms with possible future apocalyptic consequences to human societies.
Premarital sex also hinders courtship and weakens the psychological bonding process between partners thereby causally contributing to unhappy relationships and breakups.
The Bible hints many times that promiscuous sex is bad for health and relationships! (Proverbs 6:27-29)
Will there be a future even greater "public health achievement" when promoters of promiscuous sex pay for damages?
The Bible and scienceI enjoyed the debate during 1997 in The Advertiser Letters about the Bible.
A scientific approach is to regard the Bible as a set of statements each of which might, prior to being tested, be either true or false. Allow for figures of speech and poetry. Then test any testable Bible statements against 20th Century science. Finally generalize the result.
I have done this for 25 years and often report the findings to editors of skeptics magazines.
For example, Psalm 58 implies snakes (in particular the cobra) have ears and can hear. Experiments in 1923, mainly on rattlesnakes, seemed to prove snakes are deaf. Text books still repeat this conclusion.
Micropedia editions under Cobra state that cobras are deaf. However, the Britannica under Sensory Systems showed that snakes hear in the frequency range 100 to 700 hertz, the range of most music.
The Britannica editor acknowledged the discrepancy by letter and the need for revision.
I have similarly tested Bible statements against discoveries in twenty sciences. Of testable statements tested most came up trumps, a few inconclusive, none false!
RELIGIOUS DEBATE HINDERED
(Investigator 62, 1998 September)
The above title came about because the policy of The Advertiser in its letters-to-the-editor section is "NOT to publish rebuttals to responses." This was the experience of Roy Pain. (Investigator 58 p. 24) The policy hinders debate and can leave people with misleading impressions when a "response" is off the mark but no further letter is permitted on the topic.
The problem led to the idea of printing in Investigator letters about religion and the paranormal which were sent to other publications....
Three more have been obtained:
Much wisdom is shown by the Constitutional Convention delegates in agreeing to include the phrase "humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God" in the proposed new Constitution preamble.
Keith Cornish and his atheist friends (The Advertiser, 27/2/98) must pardon the rest of us, who agree wholeheartedly with the delegates. A great many of us have experienced the blessings of God in our personal lives as well as seeing his providence in our national progress.
The trouble with atheists is they simply do not believe in a supernatural God. They want so see before they believe (and even then they remain skeptical.)
They will never find God until they first believe He exists. Then they will have the blinkers off and have a good look around. God is everywhere. He is the one God and Father of us all, who is over all and through all and in all. An Almighty but very personal God who is so close and loving to those who know Him.
So what about it, Keith? Why not believe and seek Him? You will be rewarded.
Max Costelloe, Glenalta.
(The Advertiser 1998 March 9)
FACT AND FANTASY
It is not "staggering" that 34 per cent of Australians do not believe in the existence of God. (SM, 15/3/98)
It is staggering that 66 per cent do believe – for no-one can provide a rational definition of such an entity or prove the existence of anything supernatural, be they gods, devils, spirits, fairies, angels, bunyips, leprechauns, etc.
Primitive people have imagined the existence of thousands of gods and other supernatural entities and they have all been discarded by people capable of distinguishing fact from fantasy.
It is a sad commentary that so many Australians still believe in the existence of the old Semitic tribal god "Yah" (upgraded as "Jehovah" in the King James Bible).
There is no concrete scientific evidence of anything supernatural and god-belief is the awful result of infant brainwashing.
The ability to live to a person's full potential in this world of here and now is reason enough, without belief in supernatural hocus-pocus.
Keith S. Cornish
President, Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc,
(Sunday Mail 1998 March 29)
To Barry Williams,
Editor, The Skeptic
Bible truth is life saving!
Many religions have long used Bible principles to discourage cigarette smoking. The Bible, for example, promotes the values of long life, good health and freedom from bad habits. Only recently have governments followed suit.
The Bible also opposes premarital and promiscuous sex – conduct which kills and injures MORE people than smoking does. (Investigator Magazine No. 48) Most governments, editors and organizations, however, still react half-heartedly – they try to reduce damage by promoting "safe sex".
In 1974 I realized that Bible descriptions of world-wide fire on "the day of the Lord" correspond to descriptions of a major asteroid impact. The idea that such impacts could occur remained generally rejected until 1980. Scientific realization that global fire would result took even longer.
Because science lagged behind the Bible, the search for dangerous asteroids was slow to start.
In two of the above instances millions of lives are at stake annually and in the third everyone’s life!
Yet The Skeptic promotes the impression that the Bible is useless fiction. Many points in the article Biblicalcosmography (Spring 1997), for example, are erroneous and were answered in Investigator. But a response in The Skeptic seems prohibited.
Is it your policy to present one-sided views? If so you should make this policy known.
Mr Williams, ask yourself: "Do I have the same attitude of bias as others I criticize but have merely attached my bias to different unproved presuppositions?"
Anonymous SA 1998 July