You're suggesting that I'm not in favor of a level playing field. All I am trying to say is that some statements seem inherently more unlikely than others. This is equivalent to noting that for any statement there are factors at the onset that weigh for or against it's truth. A person will have a lot easier time convincing me that his father died last year than he would convincing me that his father rose from the dead last year. The Bible contains many supernatural stories. Since I have never in my life seen convincing evidence that anything supernatural has actually happened, I think that such claims are inherently highly improbable. Your going to have to provide very good evidence to convince me otherwise - much better evidence than you would if you just wanted to persuade me of something ordinary.
Feel free to try to win me to your side. Some people object to proselytizing, but I don't, at least not in this situation.
You seem to have a bitter dislike of the ACLU, but from what I've seen, you don't really understand what it does. It consistently supports the rights of the individual against the power of the state. The reason Theists see it as against them is because they are frequently trying to get the government to promote their agenda: they want prayers and religious mottos and other religious monuments (of their own preference) given favored treatment by the government. Yes, the ACLU opposes that. If the ACLU tried to suppress your right to send religious messages over the internet I would resign immediately. I would virtually guarantee that the opposite would happen - they would support your right as an individual to religious expression against any government action to take it away, and in my opinion that is exactly what they should do.
You said they oppose the constitution by making laws (presumably with the help of the Supreme Court) that defy the constitutional ban on congress passing certain kinds of laws. Not only does the ACLU not have this as a goal, it is impossible. The Supreme Court can strike down laws, but it cannot pass them. If you have any such law in mind, tell me what it is.
Your statement that "the ACLU does not have any anti-religious agenda," would be comical if it weren't so sad. If the ACLU does not have a religious agenda, name some organization that does? Also, do you know where I can get objective statistics on the ACLU threats and lawsuits classified so their agenda would be clear? You and I both know what it would show.
I would say the Council for Secular Humanism, various atheist organizations, and the American Humanist Association (to a slightly lesser extent) have anti-religious agendas. The ACLU does not. It does have an agenda to prevent religions from using government to impose their views on others. If you know of cases where it tries to interfere with religions that are minding their own business, let me know. If not, don't be so opinionated.
There's a current case where the ACLU is supporting Rush Limbaugh. Here's part of a story from the foxnews website (Sunday, May 9):
"The ACLU contends that state law enforcement officers violated Limbaugh's privacy rights by taking possession of his medical records as part of their criminal investigation into the commentator's alleged "doctor-shopping" to feed his prescription-drug addiction.
"While this case involves the right of Rush Limbaugh to maintain the privacy of his medical records, the precedent set in this case will impact the security of medical records and the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship of every person in Florida," Simon [from the Florida ACLU] said in his statement.
As in every other ACLU case I know about, it is about limiting government power.
It seems to me that the whole point of the Theist argument that the United States was founded as a Christian (Theist) country is that they think their brand of Christianity should be the official state religion. The point seems to be that they want government favoritism towards their religion. Then when the ACLU or the Supreme Court says the government must stay out of the religion business, they complain about how they are being discriminated against. They are free to worship however they want, hand out leaflets on streetcorners, set up websites, build churches (exempt from property tax!), and give speeches on streetcorners. But they are angry if they aren't allowed to use their position as public officials or public employees (like teachers), while paid with taxpayer money, to promote their religion. Even as teachers or politicians, they are free to proselytize as long as it is on their own time. I don't see any discrimination against Theists, only refusal to discriminate for them.
You strongly disagreed with my claim that Christianity was not what set this country apart from it's predecessors. You claim that what made us strong was strong Theistic beliefs with (if I paraphrase correctly) weak religious organizations. I have heard it suggested (by Humanists) that the reason why religion is more powerful in the United States now than in Europe, was that the lack of a state religion didn't allow religious organizations to become as complacent here as they did in Europe. Perhaps. However, I don't see any evidence at all that this led to American success. Rather I would say we had a superior system of government, freedoms that encouraged innovation and productivity, incredible natural resources on a sparsely populated continent, and easily defensible borders. None of these relate to Christian beliefs as far as I can see. I also must ask, who were the founding fathers who were Theists? The main evidence for Theism you've presented so far seems to be just that leaders made various pious references to God or Jesus in public statements. This hardly implies religious devotion, and is probably was no different from what European leaders did.
Frankly I feel like modern conservative Christians have created this myth of devout American origins (and I think they sincerely believe it) and have done a great job of selling it, but I don't see that it has any historical validity at all.
Evolution and Racism
You have not presented any evidence that evolutionists are any more racist than creationists. You have not presented any reasoning by which someone would conclude that negros were inferior based on knowledge of evolutionary theory, and I cannot think of any myself. I feel that virtually all racists get their ideas from their culture and can easily rationalize them on the basis of either creationist or religious beliefs. This whole line of reasoning is simply a name-calling attack to discredit evolutionists. It says nothing at all about whether evolution is true.
Am I admitting that the effects of Theism are good?
No. On the one hand, believing there is a supernatural being looking over your shoulder at all times could discourage some bad behavior (as in Santa Claus knowing who is naughty or nice), but my observation is that religious people don't behave in practice any better than non-religious people. Perhaps the problem is that religious morality puts more emphasis on trying to make a good impression on God and obeying sexual taboos than it does on being a beneficial member of the community.
In any case, if you agree with me that we should promote the truth, whatever it may be, then the question of whether behavior improves by believing one thing or another is irrelevant. It is the truth we should believe. This is the point I was trying to make.
It is a well known principle in science and critical thinking that correlation does not imply causation. A similar principle is the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" (after this, therefore because of this) fallacy. The propagandist (and I seriously doubt the "Traditional Values Coalition" could be considered an unbiased source) can easily concoct data to promote whatever idea they want. School prayer was outlawed in the early sixties. So we look for any bad trends in the decade following it and blame them on rhe removal of prayer. There may have been hundreds of positive trends in the same time period, but they are ignored. There are hundreds of other factors which could have produced trends but they are ignored. More likely candidates would be the advent of television, the increasing movement of people to the suburbs, the increasing availability of automobiles (particularly to teenagers), the Vietnam War, the increasing use of appliances that allowed more women to work, and air-conditioning that meant people spent less time outdoors in the summer talking to their neighbors. Or maybe it was rock and roll.
I don't know about you, but we did have prayer and Bible reading when I was in school, up until the last year or two (I graduated in 1963). It was a completely mindless exercise that could not have made religion seem positive to anyone. A student volunteer would pick a Bible reading - always a Psalm. The main criterion was that it wasn't too long. Although the state law required at least 5 or 6 verses, one of the most popular Psalms was the 117th, since it had only two verses. After this we would all bow our heads and mumble the Lord's Prayer. The Catholics would stop early since their version didn't include "for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever." When they got rid of school prayer nobody missed it. I was religious at the time but this mindless ritual certainly did not make me more so. The idea that omitting it caused major breakdowns in society is not the slightest bit plausible to me.
Quick answers to questions
You asked a flurry of questions in your previous letter to which I made brief answers. You seem bothered by the fact that I didn't provide evidence for my views. I was just telling you my opinions, not trying to justify them or persuade you that they were true. That is beyond what I want to get into for the present.
I am familiar with C. S. Lewis's "lord, liar, or lunatic" argument. This is a false choice. First, even if the Gospels are accurate, my recollection is that Jesus' claims to be the Messiah or to be God were not at all clear. Secondly, I have no reason to believe the Gospels are accurate. Finally, a person could falsely believe they were God, or had some special divine mission, without having other signs of insanity. Many otherwise brilliant and capable people have had bizarre beliefs.
You seem to be very comfortable dismissing tremendous statistical evidence supporting the truth of Jesus and the Bible by simply stating that a story developed around that assumption or someone inserted changes to make the prophecy appear to be true. Do you have any evidence for any of this stuff?
To the best of my knowledge there is no "tremendous statistical evidence" of Bible truth. I assume you have something in mind that you will provide in the future. To the best of my knowledge, no supernatural event (such as a supernaturally inspired prophecy) has ever been demonstrated to be true. When there is a simple non-supernatural explanation for a supernatural claim, I think that is far more likely to be the case. This may sound like bias on my part, but virtually everybody makes this assumption much of the time. If a magician does something that seems supernatural, we take for granted that it is a trick rather than a supernatural power. If a person accused of a crime blurts out some knowledge of the crime that only the criminal would know, we would not take it seriously if he claimed he learned about it by ESP. I don't think we should rule out the possibility that supernatural events might possibly happen, but if there is a reasonable natural alternative to a supernatural claim, it seems fair to consider the natural version to be far more likely.
If a prophecy made in the Bible that came true with uncanny accuracy at a more recent time, say about a natural disaster that was confirmed by many independent sources, it could provide adequate proof of supernatural involvement. As long there is some other reasonable explanation, however, I see no reason to be impressed.