Archive for the 'Excerpts and rebuttals' Category

TGD – Proper understanding of the Bible

Friday, June 4th, 2010

I’ve been trying to decide how to further rebut the views of Dawkins regarding the Bible. Taking a reference by reference approach is madness. It only takes one sentence to say something outlandish and it can take many pages to properly rebut it. But at the same time, something needs to be said.

What I decided what to give a big picture view of how to read and understand the Bible. Please understand that I’m no theologian (by the way, as a quick aside, Dawkins repeated references to all theologians treating the Bible as if it’s all symbolic is as garbage as the rest of his analysis of scripture) so forgive any oversimplifications I’m sure to make. My hope is to give a “big picture” view, which, as all such attempts do, will overlook some of the nuances.

The first key thing to note about the Bible is that is not “a book” it’s two collections of books, both collections containing dozens of books. It should be read not as one cohesive book but as the writings of numerous people all of whom share in common the inspiration of God in their writing. At a minimum this means we need to be looking for different writing styles. Some of them are writing as a historian, some are writing more like story-tellers where the specific facts are not as important the storyline (which in no way compromises the historicity of the events) and uses more metaphorical language amongst the historical facts. Some are writing poetry, some are writing prose. Some are writing laws, some are writing words of encouragement. Some are writing warnings, some are writing good tidings. If one doesn’t understand the intent of each author, one risks massively missing the point.

The second key is that the Bible as a collection is a story of the journey of God’s people. It shows our failings and our successes. It shows our joys and our mourning. It shows our strengths and our weaknesses. In no way should one ever assume that because a holy person did it in scripture that God desired it and the actions were just. If anything it’s quite the opposite. The Bible is a story of a people who want to be close to God but fail at every step. And at every step, God forgives and asks us to get back up and earnestly try again. There are times there are consequences for our actions and sometimes God’s mercy is greater than at others.

Through the Bible we learn of God’s master plan to bring knowledge of Him to everyone in the world. He starts with just a few and then grows it into a larger group and eventually brings that message to the whole world through Christ. By the very nature of the plan, God’s treatment of people changes over time. His rules for the Jewish people were different than they are for us today. At first He treats us like children but over time He continues to let us grow in our understanding of Him, and consequently the rules we’re bound by, over the course of salvation history.

The final key is to make sure you put individual passages, chapters and books in the appropriate context of the whole work. The book of Ecclesiastes, which without the context of the rest of scripture would seem to suggest that our time on earth is a horrible, purposeless, useless and terrifying prospect, has quite a different meaning when it’s put in the context of scripture as a whole. One needs to ask oneself how to rectify seemingly contradictory statements (instead of just throwing up ones hands and saying “gotcha!”). Trust me, Dawkins explanation that effectively nobody has read scripture and if they did they’d reject it, is just stupid. Tons of theologians, clergy and lay people have read all of scripture and are fully aware of all these “gotchas”. But still they believe. Why? Because they understood it in the proper context. Ecclesiates becomes a book about how God is where we should put our trust, not the physical world around us. It’s trying to show just how meaningless our lives are if all we focus on is this short life. “Men come and go, but earth abides,” as it says. The meta-point is to put your emphasis somewhere else; put your trust in God.

For what it is worth, there’s plenty a fundamentalist who makes the mistake Dawkins makes. He latches on to certain scripture passages and fails to see the big picture. He reads “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not by works, lest any man should boast.” and concludes that a follower of Christ is not obligated to do anything but believe. No works are necessary. It completely ignores the context of the rest of scripture including quotes like “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels: And then will he render to every man according to his works.” While the mistake comes from a person of faith instead of an atheist, the fundamental mistake is the same.

The Dawkins solution to the above conundrum is to say “Gotcha!” and the fundamentalist solution is to pick and chose their favorite passages, but the proper response is to understand the larger context that while faith is of critical importance, it’s meaningless to have faith if we don’t act on it.

My final rebuttal to Dawkins is to make it clear just how little of the Bible he’s picking on. When one talks to those who attack the Bible, they find that the same few examples get brought up over and over and then they ignore all the rest. It’s like the pounding of the drum about Galilleo. Even though there’s much to rebut about the claims of the scientific atheist, the bigger question is “Is that all you’ve got? Over 2000 years of the Church ‘running the world’, all you have is one guy from nearly 400 years ago?” So while Dawkins is picking on 3 or 4 stories, he’s completely ignoring page after page that condemns rape and murder and all the things he claims the Bible supports based on these few stories. Taken in context it’s obvious that the point of those stories is not what Dawkins claims they are. Stated more fully, the rest of scripture helps us to understand those stories because we know by the rest of scripture that the these things are wrong. If Abraham murdering his son would be wrong based on scripture, we’re left trying to understand why God asked it of Abraham and we find the answer in it being a test.

The Bible is the word of God and our morality of today can very easily be sourced back to the principles laid out in the Bible. While our understanding of the principles in scripture have matured as time has gone on, it’s all there. In fact, so much of what has changed over the centuries is BECAUSE of spending more time getting to understand scripture and what God has told us. The ideals of equality are a perfect example of that. The failure’s of God’s people are not because it’s not clearly laid out, it’s because, as is the case with so much of salvation history, we’re slow to get the message no matter how clearly God tells us.

Don’t fall for Dawkins deception.

TGD – Dawkins scriptural claims

Monday, May 10th, 2010

As I mentioned in my Chapter 3 review, Dawkins spends one section tearing down the Bible and using half-truths and outright lies to do so. I waffled on whether to break it down because it’s a lot of work for something that anyone with even a smidgen of Biblical knowledge will realize is garbage. But because there are so many who don’t know and the section might seem compelling to them, I decided to do a rebuttal of all of his points:

1. “The historical evidence that Jesus claimed any sort of divine status is minimal.”

If by “historical evidence” he means “texts other than the Bible” then he’d have the following case: “A guy named Jesus lived about 2000 years ago and was executed by the Romans for riling up Jews in Palestine. Why he was executed is a bit unclear but it likely had something to do with Messianic claims.” That information would come from historians like Josephus who were merely documenting history. Add in what the Gospels say, which everyone should realize that while it might not carry divine status, it does carry at least some historical status, and it’s hard to make the argument that Jesus didn’t make any divine claims. But even without scripture, the evidence is far more compelling that Christ did make those claims than not.

2. “[The gospels]…All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life.”

Most scholars agree the gospels were written between 30 and 60 years after Christ’s death (i.e. from 60 AD to 90 AD). It’s unclear if Dawkins is suggesting that “long after the death of Jesus” is 30-60 years. If so, I don’t see what’s so troublesome about that. Is he arguing that a World War 2 veteran who wrote about the battles he participated in, or in the case of Mark or Luke, a historian who interviewed WWII veterans and wrote about it, in the 70’s through the turn of the century would not be considered credible? If he’s saying the Gospels were written at some other time, he’s really going out on a limb, historically.

As for the Epistles, I’m not sure what that has to do with it. I’m sure John Kerry wrote many a political letter to his fellow politicians that referenced Vietnam that didn’t mention each and every detail of his time during the War. It’s one thing to write letters with specific points in mind, which is what Paul was doing when writing to various budding Christian communities, it’s an entirely different thing to write a memoir or a history. In fact, Luke specifically starts of his Gospel stating that the point was to bring together what had been written or communicated in many different forms (i.e. like the Epistles) into one history for “easy reference”. He begins his Gospel this way:

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. (Luke 1:1-4)

3. “When the gospels were written, many years after Jesus’ death, nobody knew where he was born.”

What a ridiculous claim. Christ’s own mother was still alive, by most accounts, when the first Gospels were written. To suggest that no one had ever talked to her, much less the dozens of other relatives who would have known, is ridiculous.

4. “Johns’ gospel specifically remarks that his followers were surprised that he was not born in Bethlehem.”

After this quote, Dawkins quotes John 7:41-42, which says that some were unconvinced that Jesus was the Messiah because he was from Galilee. This is the first instance in this section of an error Dawkins makes repeatedly when referencing scripture when is to confuse a quote in scripture with the positive consent of the author. John is telling us what some people thought. No where in there does John indicate that what those people thought was accurate. More likely, John knew, having written his Gospel after the others, that the other Gospels had clearly established that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem, and so it would obvious to the reader that these people were wrong about Jesus. It was likely so obvious to him that this was the case he didn’t even feel the need to rebut the claims of these people.

5. “Matthew has Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem all along, moving to Nazareth only long after the birth of Jesus.”

This is the same error as with the previous item. Matthew is entirely silent about where Mary and Joseph were from. After giving Christ’s genealogy, Matthew simply states, “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” and continues on with the story of how Mary conceived without having sex. There’s no mention of location. There’s no mention of moves or lack thereof. Nothing. So at best all Dawkins could say is “well, since there’s no mention, I’m going to assume they were there the whole time.” And it’s not a horrible assumption. Without any other evidence it would make sense. But it is an assumption and when other texts give us other ideas, it’s reasonable to suggest that it’s a false assumption.

In fact, going further, Matthew NEVER says the place is Bethlehem. All that is said is that Herod tells the Magi to look for the baby in Bethlehem. Then the Magi set out and a star leads them to the baby. For all we know, taking this text without any context of the rest of what scripture had to say, the star took them away from Bethlehem and the Magi found the baby in Galilee.

Obviously that’s just a stupid interpretation, but it’s exemplary of what happens if you try to read a text in a vacuum.

6. “Joseph was ‘of the house and lineage of David’ and therefore he had to go to ‘the city of David, which is called Bethlehem’. … David, if he existed, lived nearly 1000 years before Mary and Joseph. Why on earth would the Romans have required Joseph to go to the city where a remote ancestor had lived a millennium earlier?”

For such a brilliant scientist, you’d think Dawkins logical skills would be stronger. Did he even consider the possibility that Joseph lived in Bethlehem as a child himself, that being of that family, he was raised there but then left the area later in life? Nowhere in scripture does it suggest that it had been 1000 years since Joseph’s descendants had lived there. If anything, it suggests the opposite, that the descendants of David lived in Bethlehem right up until the time of Christ. That Joseph personally lived in Bethlehem would make sense.

7. “There was indeed a census under Governor Quirinius – a local census, not one decreed by Caesar Augustus for the empire as a whole – but it happened too late; in AD 6, long after Herod’s death.”

Which would logically indicate that it was likely some other census that was being referenced to. One that was broader than a local one.

8. “Robert Gillhooly shows how all the essential features of the Jesus legend, including the star in the east, the virgin birth, the veneration of the baby by kings, the miracles, the execution, the resurrection and the ascension are borrowed – every last one of them – from other religions already in existence in the Mediterranean and Near East region.”

The key word here is “borrowed”. That’s Dawkins’ (and perhaps Gilhooly’s) assumption and means of deriding an event that he doesn’t like. I mean, just what is the line of reasoning here? Group A predicts something, group B later claims it happened, therefore, group B is lying? Or is it group A claims something happened, group B later claims a similar thing happened, therefore, group B is lying? Those logical chains just don’t make any sense so all he can do is say they were “borrowed” without any evidence that this is the case.

9. “Matthew traces Joseph’s descent from King David via twenty-eight intermediate generations, while Luke has forty-one generations? Worse, there is almost no overlap in the names on the two lists!”

Which of course logically suggests that there was more than one genealogy that would trace back to David, something not too uncommon in relatively isolated communities. Or is the devastating claim that the number of generations is different? Doesn’t Dawkins have any cousins who are enough younger or older than he so as to be more close in age to his parents or his children? I know I do. One family can easily have 5 generations in 100 years and others can have as little as 3.

10. “The four gospels that made it into the official canon were chosen, more or less arbitrarily, out of a larger sample of at least a dozen including the Gospels of Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Philip, Bartholomew and Mary Magdalen.”

It’s the “more or less arbitrarily” that is Dawkins error in this instance. In fact, Dawkins shortly thereafter gives a pretty reasonable explanation of why at at least Thomas was excluded: it make claims that the Church couldn’t support about ferries and the such. It’s as if Dawkins has never been involved in the peer review process that scientists go through to get their works published. How do they determine if a work gets published? They read the work and then check that work against what is known and how defensible the claims are. Those that aren’t justifiable don’t get published. The same is true of the Gospels. The ones that seem to have sourced themselves well and are credible were kept as canonical. Those that weren’t, didn’t get approval. What again is wrong with that? If anything it shows that the Church was critical in nature and wasn’t going to fall for any ridiculous claim that someone made.

11. “Most of what the four canonical gospels share a derived from a common source, either Mark’s gospel or a lost work of which mark is the earliest extant descendant.”

I’ll ignore the fact that Dawkins is basically ignoring John’s gospel which is wholly different than the other 3 in how it is organized and what it focuses on. But again, what exactly is Dawkins claiming? That all three are restating what had been written before? Obviously what he’s trying to claim (as can be seen from the next item) is that they’re just blindly copying someone else s work and they have no idea what they’re talking about. But it’s just a stupid notion that because they all reference the same events in Christ’s life, perhaps using someone else’s work as a staring point for their own personal testimony, that it means they’re just copying what they have no knowledge of.

12. “Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally.”

Of all of his claims this is the most ridiculous. John and Matthew were apostles. They lived with Jesus during his public ministry and were PERSONAL witnesses to the resurrection. Luke and Mark were both followers of Paul and are mentioned in Paul’s Epistles multiple times. While it is accurate that they never met Jesus personally, through Paul, who himself only knew Christ after his ascension, they would have most likely met most of the apostles who did personally know Jesus.

Perhaps Dawkins is trying to claim that everything is scripture is bunk and we can’t even trust the names on the books (“Matthew didn’t really write Matthew”) but that would again put him WAY outside the scholarly mainstream that he claims to respect so much. While there are passages and sections that scholars debate whether they personally come from the claimed author, generally it is believed that even those questionable passages came from close followers who rounded out those sections after the disciples death.

13. “It is even possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never existed at all.”

I included this one as proof of just how much Dawkins is willing to deviate from scholarly accepted information when it suits him. Sure the vast majority of credible scholars suggest that Jesus indeed lived, but why let that stop Dawkins from throwing in a jab of what he’d prefer to be the case with the small caveat to give him some critical breathing room when questioned (“well I did say it wasn’t widely supported”).

14. “Although Jesus probably existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New Testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as a reliable record of what actually happened in history.”

Again, more complete hogwash. As long as by “reputable” Dawkins limits that to mean “the ones I find reputable”, I guess it could be accurate. Nevertheless, there is much evidence to suggest that much of what is said in the Gospels is accurate and a fair number of confirming external documents for a number of scriptural claims. Additionally, there are very few external documents that contradict scripture, although there are some for a number of minor details. The vast majority of biblical scholars will tell you as much that the Gospels appear to reflect real events that happened in Palestine between about 6 BC and 35 AD (or thereabouts). Whether the divine claims are true is a religious question, but the basic histories are accurate.

And so ends Dawkins scriptural blunder-filled section…

It’s worth noting to conclude this post that I included just about every scriptural claim that Dawkins makes in the section. It’s not that he made 50 claims and I picked the 14 that were errant. Sadly, on the contrary just about EVERY one of his claims are at best ignorant or at worst purposely misleading.

TGD – Why science can never answer the ‘God question’

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

As I mentioned in my Chapter 2 review, Dawkins emphasizes the point that, in his opinion, eventually science will answer the question of whether God exists. He suggests there can only be “temporary agnosticism” because by his way of thinking, science will someday answer every question.

The point of this post is to rebut that idea.

Science is a method of discovery and like all methods it is limited in what it can discover. As Dawkins should well know, the scientific method works by theorems being suggested and then experiments are done to either validate or disprove those theorems. Because of the very nature of that method, the theorem must be falsifiable. Additionally, because of the lack of trust in any one experiment (where some unknown factor could have thrown off the results) the experiments must repeatable in nature.

It’s a great method of discovery as history has shown.

However, it has its limitations. The number one limitation in this realm is its inability to deal with intelligence. By it’s very nature, repeatability ASSUMES that the thing being observed be governed by simple laws. It might be that those laws are compounded upon one another to create what seems complex until it is broken down, but in principle every aspect of the experiment must be dealing with something “mechanical” and unintelligent.

By way of example. If the law of gravity could decide to suspend itself, because it was intelligent and could act on a whim if it so desired, we’d have all these experiments that “disproved” gravity. Gravity didn’t work the way it was supposed to in some instances and therefore, at a minimum, our model of gravity is incomplete. But when a scientist goes to refine that model, they assume yet another simple factor is complicating the situation. Gravity can’t be intelligent and science assumes as much.

God, by His very definition is intelligent. He can not be reduced to simple laws. If he could, he wouldn’t be God, at least in the way just about every notable religion of the world views God. God is intelligent and therefore can not be predicted or reduced to simple laws or theorems.

As such, science can never prove God, it could only disprove it. The best science could ever do regarding the question of God is to answer every possible question about how every single event happened and will happen and therefore show that there is nothing intelligent out there interfering with the laws science has uncovered.

Which is of course exactly the situation Dawkins wants. He wants to use a method that could only possibly come up with the answer he’s hoping for. He also wants, in the mean time while you’re waiting for that “glorious day” when science has disproved every aspect of a intelligent being beyond this world, for you to be “temporarily agnostic” but leaning towards atheist because science has yet to show any evidence for God. Which as I’ve shown, it is incapable of doing.

Coming at the same issue from another perspective, let’s look at a few examples Dawkins uses in the chapter.

He talks about whether Jesus had an earthly father and that it could, in theory, be answered scientifically. Dawkins admits that the necessary scientific evidence doesn’t exist anymore, Jesus having died 2000 years ago and there being no trace of His earthy remains (curious thing, isn’t it? :) ). But let’s pretend for a moment that we had the needed evidence, say a sample of Jesus’s DNA and infinite scientific resources to examine the question. What would we do with it then?

A scientist would suggest, let’s take Jesus’s DNA and match it against every man who could have possibly been Jesus’s father. They’d have to exhume a bunch of dead guys and it would be a massive effort but it could be done. Now, if the genetic analysis came back and said that some guy was his father, that would be a compelling point that the claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin (at least in the genetic sense, which is what we care about in this case) is false.

But what if the research is done an no father can be found, what then?

I can guarantee you that Dawkins answer would not be to concede that Jesus was in fact the son of God. No, there could be other answers. Perhaps we missed some possible candidate father. Perhaps Mary was cloned and then genetically manipulated into a man. And if that didn’t bear any fruit, there would be other possible scientific answers. And if Dawkins ever ran out of experiments he could do, he imagine 30 more that were not possible at this time.

There’s got to be SOME ANSWER!?!

See how it works? He’s created a playing field where only naturalistic answers are accepted because it’s the only type of answer the scientific method can test. Dawkins likely has the same response to the miracle at Fatima that 70,000 people witnesses less than 100 years ago. There is no denying that something happened between the photographic evidence and first hand accounts that can not be dismissed as “legends” or something similar.

I suspect Dawkins will readily admit he doesn’t have the answer, but he’ll continue to look for one. The fact that there is not yet a scientific explanation doesn’t not mean there is not one. And while that’s true as far as it goes, it’s a method that purposely ignores the miraculous answer.

But how are the rest of us to respond to that miracle in the mean time? Science has no answer, but we’ve got 70,000 witness who said it happened. Are we to simply wait around twiddling our thumbs giving science infinite time to do futile experiments? Or would Dawkins admit is it reasonable for us to say that the preponderance of the evidence suggests it’s a miracle? I suspect he would not. To throw Dawkins own words back at him:

Some disprovable things are sensibly judged far less probable than other undisprovable things.

Dawkins makes the statement above at the end of “The Poverty of Agnosticism” section. He makes the point in regards to God. He’s saying that Just because we can’t disprove God, doesn’t mean that it’s a 50%/50% proposition. Well, he needs to live and die by the same sword then. Who can honestly tell me that the evidence in the Fatima case deserves to be treated equally? Science has no credible retort to what is a well documented miracle. Why are we to keep a naturalistic explanation that hasn’t even yet been proposed, much less tested, on equal ground with what the evidence of those people, both believers and doubters, have brought forward.

To use another example from the book, Dawkins spends a whole section of the chapter talking about the “Great Prayer Experiment”. The experiment attempts to determine whether intercessory prayer works by creating a perfectly valid scientific experiment.

The fact that anyone would attempt the experiment shows that they don’t get the limitation of science to matters for which there is no intelligent being acting upon the experiment. It is trying to either prove over disprove that intercessory prayer either works or doesn’t work in a formulaic sense, i.e. “enough prayers” or “the right prayers” will always result in someone being healed. OK, perhaps the person being prayed for needs to be holy too, or perhaps there are 3 or 4 other criteria, but for the experiment to work EVERY SINGLE one of those criteria must be a formulaic one where some 3rd party intelligence is not responsible for whether the prayers work.

Because if it is about the intelligent being making the decision, statistics and control groups and sample sizes will in no way discover the truth. You can’t do “control group” to deal with God’s intelligent decisions. For an experiment to be valid all of the things being tested require a repeatable, unintelligent set of laws governing the experiment.

Instead, the truth of the matter is that God will decide if anyone gets healed. Sometimes he’ll perform miracles when no one has prayed, sometimes it’ll be when tons of people have prayed. God only knows what the criteria are for when he heals someone (and I mean “God only knows” not in the flippant sense, but quite literally).

To summarize, Dawkins is trying to set a foundation based on science that is so distorted of a playing field, that no team besides his could ever win. Whether it’s because science requires naturalistic/repeatable theorems for the theorem to even be tested or whether it’s because he wants to use the “preponderance of the evidence” when it suits him, but allow science infinite time and resources when the evidence is to the contrary, he’s rigging a game that only he can win. He refuses to accept any evidence besides scientific ones, even when science has no ability to contradict the evidence presented.

The simple truth is that the scientific method is not the only means of discovery or answering a question and Dawkins is trying to fool you into thinking science is the only valid method around. Don’t fall for Dawkins sham.

TGD – Tax Exempt Status

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Ever since the 2008 elections in California, there’s been a small group of people loudly yelling for the removal of the tax exempt status of churches. I always thought that the Prop. 8 election in California was the genesis because lots of religious people donated to Prop. 8. But it appears that there’s an earlier genesis point because Dawkins brings it up in TGD. I don’t know if he’s the genesis point, but at a minimum this idea has been around since the book was published in 2006.

The issue is significant enough that I thought it was worth it’s own post.

Here’s my overall point, I don’t think these people know what they’re asking for. Churches pay property tax, they pay payroll tax, their employees pay income tax (and it’s deducted from their paychecks like everyone else), there’s really no tax that exists that the church itself doesn’t pay.

“What about corporate income tax?” someone may ask. By definition, there is none. Being a non-profit, they can’t have income. And in reality, they don’t. All the money that comes in, goes out to either administrative costs (which would include salaries, utilities, taxes and things like building costs) or goes to charities.

And let’s be perfectly clear, there’s nothing in the tax code that requires a corporate entity to be religious to be non-profit or even a charitable non-profit. I’m a member of a sailing club that is incorporated and we’re incorporated as a non-profit. We’re not a charitable non-profit, so any donations to our club are not tax deductible (make a note of this) but we don’t pay any income taxes despite the fact that collect tens of thousands of dollars each year in dues, regatta fees and other miscellaneous income. We can do this because every single dollar goes back out the door to our expenses.

Circling back to tax deductible donations, this is the one area where there is room for debate. It is true that a charitable non-profit does have an advantage over other non-profits, like my sailing club, and over profitable companies. When people donate to those charitable non-profits, THEY get to deduct that from their personal income tax. It’s a way for the government to encourage charity. But to be clear, the churches themselves don’t benefit in the tax code! Those who donate do.

Some would argue that this tax deductible donation incentive is the only reason people donate, but as the 40 million dollars that were donated to the ‘Yes on 8′ campaign (which is NOT tax deductible) demonstrates, I don’t think that is the case. They’ll donate either way.

Now, if there is a point to be made, it’s that some churches are not really charities, that they don’t take a significant portion of their money and give it back out in a charitable fashion, so the people who donate to them don’t deserve a tax deduction for donating. I won’t argue with that reality a bit. Dawkins points out a couple of televangelists who profit handsomely from their “ministry” and no doubt he’s right that there are “ministers” out there who fleece people of their money in the name of religion and/or charity and never deliver on anything. I have no defense of them.

Speaking as a Catholic, that same charge can not be leveled against us. We give out HUGE sums of money to charitable causes. In fact, here’s my challenge to all those who think that “churches should have their tax exempt status removed”:

I challenge you to come up with a policy for what constitutes a charitable non-profit that in no way references religion (either in the positive OR THE NEGATIVE) that would eliminate the Catholic Church from eligibility while still leaving 90% of existing secular charitable non-profits as eligible.

I submit it can not be done. I further submit that unless it can be done, particularly because most other large churches are similar to the Catholic Church in this regard, this is all much ado about nothing.