No Apologizing

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Would you die for a lie?


So….I have been out exploring on Google, and decided to Google “die for a lie”.  Of course the first two posts are negative responses to the disciples.  So I decided to peruse the blog posts, and came to the conclusion that they missed the mark on their analysis.  The same analysis is basically being used by any number of atheists and includes the following arguments:

1.      That there is no historical evidence that those listed in The Gospels as having seen the resurrected Christ even saw the resurrected Christ.

2.     If they were not given the option to recant, then they did not die for a lie.

These two points are what a number of Atheists will use to try to define the argument in a way that is not based in truth.

That there is no historical evidence that those listed in Acts as having seen the resurrected Christ even saw the resurrected Christ.

As always, I will be operating under the fact that every word in the Gospel’s and Acts is 100% reliable, historical, fact (because it is).

I have always looked at Acts as the sequel to the Gospels (metaphorically speaking, not the literal sequal).  The Empire Strikes Back to the Star Wars.  The Spiderman 2 to Spiderman 1. The….well you get the idea.

Towards the end of the Gospels, Christ has been crucified.  The Disciples have fled.  Peter has denied Jesus three times and fled.  The disciples were on the verge of giving up, they were hopeless.  Any number of descriptions can be used here.  The key is that the disciples thought that Christ was a King.  No matter how Jesus tried to emphasize it wasn’t what they thought, they believed him to be an earthly King.  When he died… they did in fact wonder… So what happened?  Basically this same group who were despondent upon the death of Christ turn around and begin preaching that he was in fact God and had been resurrected as the book of Acts gets going.

So let’s put this into context.  These men had witnessed His arrest.  Some of them scattered after that.  At least one of them witnessed his actual crucifixion.  All of them knew about his death.  So what would convince these men to go preach the deity and resurrection of Jesus?  Not only that, but what would convince them that they needed to preach this in the face of beating’s, flogging’s, imprisonment, and ultimately… death?

The actions of individuals are always motivated by events.  That is human nature.  So the more appropriate question… what event took place that caused these men to go and spread the word?  Acts says it is one event.  Not just the resurrection of Jesus, not the empty tomb, but Jesus appearing before them in the flesh.

Now, in some of these posts I saw online there were comparisons to the people who died for Heaven’s Gate.  You remember… the cult that committed mass suicide?!  David Koresh is another popular tie-in here for Atheists.  The Atheist wants you to believe that these people died for a lie.  They would be correct in their observation.  But their observation is under the auspice that the Gospel accounts and Acts are not 100% truth.

Here is the primary difference between the disciples and Heaven’s Gate.  The disciples would have known that the whole thing was a lie.  Think about this for just a second.  Jesus had said that he would die and be resurrected three days later… If Jesus had NOT revealed himself to them… would they have gone and preached the resurrection?  NO! They would have known that the whole thing was a hoax.  Would they have perpetuated this hoax to become famous or rich?  History (Acts specifically) shows that this most certainly was not the case.  As a matter of fact only death, beatings, and imprisonment awaited these men. For the atheists’ analogy to hold true either the cult members would have had to have foreknowledge that allowed them to know definitively whether or not their leaders were who and what they claimed. The facts are that these unfortunate souls were not afforded the opportunity to see the claims of their belief system crumble.

On the other hand, the Disciples’ actions are the definitive proof that something happened to turn them from cowards to the very definition of courage.  That event was documented in the Gospels, and in Acts.  It could only be one thing, Christ himself in the flesh.

If they were not given the option to recant, then they did not die for a lie.

An Atheist will use this as the foundation to say that the Disciples did not die for a lie.  Instead they say that there is no historical proof that ANY of the martyrs were given the opportunity to recant prior to being martyred.  I say, that they absolutely were.

The presumption of the Atheist is that a Christian must be brought in, questioned and THEN be afforded an opportunity to back out on their previous claims – recant the story of Christ.  I would ask… why were they arrested in the first place?

To illustrate look at the persecution of Christians by Saul.

That persecution was more like a man hunt.  How do they avoid the man hunt… simply stop preaching the word!  Think about it.  These people were dying horrible deaths for being associated and accepting the label of Christ.  If it was a lie all they would have had to do would be to stop preaching, stop associating with other Christians, etc… THAT ALONE is an outright recant of Jesus and His resurrection.  But that did not happen- Which makes this all the more incredible!!!  At any given time these people could have said… I am tired of ALL of this, I don’t want to die… and simply walked away.

So what can we take from this… A very real event occurred that spurred these men into action.  That took them from despair to screaming about Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem.  That event had to have been real, and not some conjured up story that a group of men made up.  Remember most of the original disciples died a horrible death because of this event.  In addition… at any time they could have simply avoided it by denying they were Christians.  These men did not die for a lie.  They were perhaps some of the most courageous men in the history of the world.

Here’s what one of those very men wrote just before he died for his faith: “I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.  We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

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15 responses to “Would you die for a lie?

  1. David E May 16, 2010 at 10:10 am

    The “would they die for a lie” idea is brought up by apologists as evidence for the truth of Christianity. The problem (well, one of several problems with this argument, but more than enough alone to render it worthless as evidence), and nothing you’ve said addresses it, is that we don’t even have good evidence that anyone who would have personally known Jesus was martyred. Just some rather late church traditions (many of the stories being contradictory).

    • kcbob May 18, 2010 at 6:20 am

      I think where we might disagree on is what is considered good evidence. For instance… There is no historical document from antiquity that is more reliable than the new testament. This is a fact and is very well documented.

      James the son of Zebedee was martyred. James was part of the inner circle of Jesus and was the brother of John. He was one of the fisherman whom Jesus picked up. He was beheaded in 44 AD. His martyrdom can also be found in the Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 9.

      Bartholomew (know as Nathanael in the gospel of John) was martyred in 68AD. This account can be found in the non-biblical document “Martyrdom of Bartholomew”. He was beaten with rods, scourged and beheaded.

      Some other accounts…Thomas (the one whom Jesus encourage to stick his finger into the gash the spear had created…Killed with a spear. Matthew…killed by a spear in 60 AD. The Apostle Andrew, brother of Peter, was crucified under the reign of Nero in 60 AD.

      The one you most likely refer to as church traditions, and there being no proof was Peter. He was believed to have been crucified upside down in Rome during the 60s.

  2. Pingback: The Bible… Is it Historically Reliable? « No Apologizing

  3. David E May 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm


    There is no historical document from antiquity that is more reliable than the new testament. This is a fact and is very well documented.

    Christian apologists do like to make bold claims. Would you care to provide some support for this assertion?


    James the son of Zebedee was martyred. James was part of the inner circle of Jesus and was the brother of John.

    He is one of the very few (perhaps only) apostle the bible claims was martyred. True enough. Let us suppose that the Book of Acts is correct in saying he was killed by Herod.

    This is not evidence for the truth of Christianity. Even if we assumed that the only options are that he was a fraud and that Christianity is true (which is obvious a false dichotomy—several other options are possible; including, but not limited to the idea that he and others early apostles saw visions and that was enough to convince them but the story was exaggerated in the Gospels that have come down to us) this no more provides support for the claim that Christianity is true than does the fact that Joseph Smith was killed for his religion provides support for the claim that Mormonism is true.

    If you think otherwise I’d be interested in hearing why.

    • kbthejesusfreak May 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm

      David… thanks for stopping by again.

      In regards to your first question: check out today’s post (https://noapologizing.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/the-bible-is-it-historically-reliable/) for a short description of why the Bible is a more reliable than any other ancient text.

      To respond to your second challenge:
      Forgive me if this seems a little brash, but it seems to me like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too, in a couple of ways… Either you trust the Bible as evidence or you don’t… Either martyrdom is evidence for one’s conviction of what they perceive as truth or it is not… But in both these cases you’ve tried to play it both ways.

      One case where you appear to be inconsistent is: In your first comments you claim that there is no evidence that anyone was martyred who knew Jesus – and this presumed lack of martyrs is evidence that the Bible is manufactured. Now it might not be evidence that you accept, but the biblical historical record does point out a martyr, but you say that even if the Bible is accurate, this means nothing. Do you see the contradiction in this logic?

      The next case of inconsistency is: You reject the biblical evidence as unreliable, but seem to completely reject (or at least ignore) extra-biblical evidence as well… is there any historical evidence from antiquity that you do accept? If so, please let us know what it is and we can try to compare it to the reliability of the biblical record to see how they measure up with one another.

      In regards to your argument that Joseph Smith’s death was not an evidence for Mormonism. That is true… It isn’t evidence for Mormonism, per se, it IS, however, evidence that Joseph Smith believed his teachings to be true… And isn’t this what Robert’s post was saying… that these men that were martyred because they truly believed that Jesus was raised from the dead as they had claimed, which in turn lends weight to the veracity of the Bible (which recorded their proclamations of those beliefs)?

      Forgive me for possibly being too blunt, but it appears to me that you just don’t want to believe and that you will use any logic (even self-contradictory logic) to try to manufacture a justification for your unbelief. Don’t get me wrong… you absolutely have the right to believe or refuse to believe anything that you want, but I’d encourage you to be honest with yourself. If you want to refuse to believe – refuse to believe… if you are seeking, then seek with open eyes… and seek logically.

  4. David E May 21, 2010 at 6:59 am


    Forgive me if this seems a little brash, but it seems to me like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too, in a couple of ways… Either you trust the Bible as evidence or you don’t…

    I don’t assume the reliability of the bible (nor any document—especially when it’s making extraordinary claims).


    Either you trust the Bible as evidence or you don’t… Either martyrdom is evidence for one’s conviction of what they perceive as truth or it is not… But in both these cases you’ve tried to play it both ways.

    No, I’ve simply explained two opinions I hold:

    A. In the first place, the evidence for the martyrdom of the apostles is EXTREMELY weak.

    And

    B. Even if it turns out such martyrdoms did occur this would not be good evidence for the truth of the Christian religion.

    Surely it’s not difficult to see that these are not mutually exclusive positions.


    Now it might not be evidence that you accept, but the biblical historical record does point out a martyr, but you say that even if the Bible is accurate, this means nothing. Do you see the contradiction in this logic?

    There is no contradiction. First, I didn’t say “even if the Bible is accurate” (obviously that would end the discussion since the Bible claims Jesus rose from the dead). I said even if the apostles were martyred (this is not a position that assumes the accuracy of the Bible or even the extra-biblical sources for claims about the martyrdoms—those stories could be greatly inaccurate in most respects and the martyrdoms still have happened.

    Let me give an example not involving religion of why you are making an error in claiming a contradiction in my position. Suppose someone said that Rocky Balboa was the greatest boxer who ever lived.

    In the first place, Rocky is a fictional character.

    But let’s imagine that it turned out that Sylvester Stallone based his screenplay on a real Rocky Balboa (even if he took liberties with the man’s life story in his screenplay).

    It would still not be established that he was the greatest boxer who ever lived. There are 2 claims that are being disputed:

    1. Rocky Balboa existed.
    2. Rocky Balboa was the greatest boxer who ever lived.

    I would dispute 1 and even if I accepted it still not be convinced of 2. The are separate claims (even though, obviously, the truth of claim 2 depends on the truth of claim 1—but the truth of 1 does not depend on 2).

    Much the same applies to the issue we’re discussing. You’re making to separate claims:

    1. Many of the apostles were martyred.
    2. Their martyrdom is good evidence for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.

    I dispute that we have good grounds for believing 1 and I further dispute that, even were it true, that we’d have good grounds for concluding, based on this, that the resurrection of Jesus was probably historical fact.

    There is obviously no contradiction. I really don’t see how you can have failed to understand this from the start.


    The next case of inconsistency is: You reject the biblical evidence as unreliable, but seem to completely reject (or at least ignore) extra-biblical evidence as well…

    There are very good grounds for being suspicious of both in this case. But I’ll save that discussion for the blog post on THE BIBLE….IS IT HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.


    is there any historical evidence from antiquity that you do accept?

    Yes. The ones we have good grounds for accepting (obviously, the standards for accepting historical claims is a complex subject and a long discussion in itself, again, I’ll discuss that on the blog post on the question of the historical reliability of the Bible once I’ve had a chance to read it).


    In regards to your argument that Joseph Smith’s death was not an evidence for Mormonism. That is true… It isn’t evidence for Mormonism, per se, it IS, however, evidence that Joseph Smith believed his teachings to be true…

    No, it most certainly isn’t. Any reasonable person familiar with the early history of Mormonism would know otherwise. Read up a bit. Even if it’s just a very basic wikipedia article. Smith was a fraud and a con artist.

    His example demonstrates a basic problem with the claim of martyrdom as evidence: neither political authorities nor lynch mobs generally give cult leaders the chance to recant. They don’t say “recant and we’ll set you free”. And it’s impossible to prove (or even to give good basis for thinking) that the apostles, if it’s even true they were martyred, were given a choice to recant and be set free. And if not, their death was no evidence of their sincere belief.

    Which brings us to the 3rd problem (one I only barely touched on previously):

    It is a false dichotomy to claim that the only options are that they either died for a lie or Jesus was resurrected.

    There is at least one other option (and a quite plausible one): that they were sincere believers but that belief was based on poor evidence—visions, rather than physical appearances, etc.

    • kcbob May 21, 2010 at 9:27 am

      David, on behalf of Kevin and myself I would like to thank you for bringing a level of civility to these discussion that I don’t often see.

      I don’t assume the reliability of the bible (nor any document—especially when it’s making extraordinary claims).

      Define extraordinary. I would say that man traveling to the moon is an extraordinary event, or building of pyramids is an extraordinary event. Both of which are documented. Would you deny the reliability of either of those claims?

      No, I’ve simply explained two opinions I hold:

      A. In the first place, the evidence for the martyrdom of the apostles is EXTREMELY weak.

      But it is evidence that is supported by multiple documents separate from the Bible. How many supporting documents would you need to prove an event? 2? 3? 10? 100?

      And

      B. Even if it turns out such martyrdoms did occur this would not be good evidence for the truth of the Christian religion.

      True, but in the case of the Apostles it does. The apostles would have had exclusive first hand knowledge as to whether or not Jesus was resurrected. If he was not, why the need proclaim a fallacy to the point of death? What psychological behavior in the human psyche would support such an action? That is ultimately what you would have to explain if your stance is such as to say that an Apostle would willingly go to his death for something he knew…beyond a shadow of a doubt…to be a lie. In the case of James we have TWO documents that talk about his martyrdom. Even though this is but one example…it is an example, and cannot be discounted.

      There is no contradiction. First, I didn’t say “even if the Bible is accurate” (obviously that would end the discussion since the Bible claims Jesus rose from the dead). I said even if the apostles were martyred (this is not a position that assumes the accuracy of the Bible or even the extra-biblical sources for claims about the martyrdoms—those stories could be greatly inaccurate in most respects and the martyrdoms still have happened.

      Here again I have to ask the question…how many supporting historical documents would you need to confirm an historical event? It almost appears as though that you willingly discount any document outside of the Bible, that supports the Bible simply because it does, rather than looking at that document independently. For instance you have not mentioned anything that would disprove the historicity of the “Antiquities of the Jews”. This book, not related to the Bible, mentions Jesus of Nazareth, and the martyrdom of James. In this case you have to disprove BOTH the Bible and the “Antiquities of the Jews” to say that the Bible is false. You simply haven’t presented that case.

  5. David E May 21, 2010 at 11:16 am


    Define extraordinary. I would say that man traveling to the moon is an extraordinary event, or building of pyramids is an extraordinary event. Both of which are documented. Would you deny the reliability of either of those claims?

    Going to the moon is an extraordinary event . Claiming that a man went to the moon is, with the experience and background knowledge you and I have, not an extraordinary CLAIM.

    I’m talking here about extraordinary claims—not extraordinary events. An extraordinary event is one which is highly out of the ordinary. An extraordinary claim is one which does not fit with the available background knowledge and experience generally available.

    Obviously, what constitutes an extraordinary claim can vary depending on the background information and experience available to a particular culture. The claim that a man went to the moon would be, for a stone age culture surviving into modern times without interaction with modern culture or awareness of modern technology, an extraordinary claim.

    In which case, a visit to see the launch of one of the space shuttles and other contact with modern technology would be necessary for this person to have reasonable basis for accepting the claim.

    We do not have good evidence for or basis for belief that things like walking on water or rising from the dead and similar claims made in the Bible can really occur. Even if they do really occur they are so out of the ordinary and so remarkable and so outside our experience of (as opposed to faith-based belief in) how the world works that it’s perfectly appropriate to call them “extraordinary claims” and therefore require more evidence than we would of standard claims.

    This is just common sense and in most matters (other than your specific religion) something we both share. If someone confessed to stabbing his wife to death with a kitchen knife we would require rather less evidence this was the weapon used than we would if he confessed to stabbing her to death with the sword Excalibur which was then magically whisked away by the Lady of the Lake.

    Were it someone else’s religion under discussion you would probably not be disputing the meaning of the word “extraordinary”. Take, for example, the undergarments good Mormons are required to wear:


    Researchers who interviewed a sample of Latter-day Saints who wear the temple garment reported that virtually all wearers expressed a belief that wearing the garment provided “spiritual protection” and encouraged them to keep their covenants.[23] Some of those interviewed “asserted that the garment also provided physical protection, while others seemed less certain of any physical aspect to protection.”[23] In Mormon folklore, tales are told of Latter-day Saints who credit their temple garments with helping them survive car wrecks, fires, and natural disasters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_garment

    Would you not consider this a rather extraordinary claim, if someone said they survived a car wreck because their underwear provided them with supernatural protection? And would you not require rather more evidence than if they claimed to have survived because they wore their seat belt?


    But it is evidence that is supported by multiple documents separate from the Bible.

    I think it would be helpful for us to be more specific. Pick one of the apostles, whichever you like, and list for us the sources for the claims about how he died. We can then discuss in detail why we should or shouldn’t be convinced by what these documents say.


    True, but in the case of the Apostles it does. The apostles would have had exclusive first hand knowledge as to whether or not Jesus was resurrected. If he was not, why the need proclaim a fallacy to the point of death?

    I’ve already answered that. If you don’t recall it, reread the last section of my previous comment.


    Here again I have to ask the question…how many supporting historical documents would you need to confirm an historical event?

    Surely it’s obvious that there are other, and far more important, relevant criteria than the number of documents.

    If I have 3 friends who are also convicted murderers claiming that I was with them during the robbery of a liquor store this is not going to be reasonably regarded as particularly good evidence of my innocence. Nor would it if it was 10 or 30 or 100 convicted murderers.

    Again, I suggest we avoid generalities and discuss a specific martyrdom in detail. Your choice as to which.


    For instance you have not mentioned anything that would disprove the historicity of the “Antiquities of the Jews”. This book, not related to the Bible, mentions Jesus of Nazareth, and the martyrdom of James. In this case you have to disprove BOTH the Bible and the “Antiquities of the Jews” to say that the Bible is false.

    Again, reread the last section of my previous comment. You seem to be completely ignoring it.

    • kcbob May 21, 2010 at 11:55 am

      An extraordinary event is one which is highly out of the ordinary. An extraordinary claim is one which does not fit with the available background knowledge and experience generally available

      Which must be why you ignored the pyramids part of that statement. What if the extraoinary claim is an event? My claim, man landed on the moon. The event, MAN LANDED ON THE MOON. The claim of those in the New Testament, Jesus was ressurrected. The event Jesus was resurrected.

      Surely it’s obvious that there are other, and far more important, relevant criteria than the number of documents.

      If I have 3 friends who are also convicted murderers claiming that I was with them during the robbery of a liquor store this is not going to be reasonably regarded as particularly good evidence of my innocence. Nor would it if it was 10 or 30 or 100 convicted murderers.

      Again, I suggest we avoid generalities and discuss a specific martyrdom in detail. Your choice as to which

      Okay so you have three terrible friends that would out you, but what if the owner of the liquor store corraborated what your friends said? To bring your comparison to the Bible, you have 12 that claim to see Jesus resurrected. It is documented by someone else, and corraborated in a completely different document by someone else. In this case (for your theory to hold true) all would have to be in on the lie. This would be an …extraordinary event…considering that one of them was part of a class that abhored the central person in the event.

      Again, reread the last section of my previous comment. You seem to be completely ignoring it.

      You are going to have to be more specifc you have several pervious comments. I don’t see anything there that specifcally addresses the historocity of the “Antiquities of the Jews”, just vague generalizations about numbers of documents and number of years from the event as being historically accurate. Again, I challenge you…prove to me that the “Antiquities of the Jews” is as false as the Bible.

      As far as the mormon comparison…I can’t comment on that. I have no idea as to their religion. I certainly wouldn’t quote anythign from Wiki though….not reliable.

  6. David E May 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm


    Which must be why you ignored the pyramids part of that statement.

    I ignored that one because the building of the pyramids is too obviously not an extraordinary claim: THEY’RE STILL STANDING —so, obviously, we know they have been built. It’s a perfect example of the difference between “extraordinary event” and “extraordinary claim”. The event is extraordinary. The claim that it occurred is not only not extraordinary but glaringly obviously true.


    What if the extraoinary claim is an event? My claim, man landed on the moon. The event, MAN LANDED ON THE MOON.

    Again, landing on the moon is an extraordinary event (in the sense of being a difficult and highly unusual event).

    The claim that men landed on the moon is not the same as the event itself (obvously) and is not an extraordinary claim because we, as members of a modern technological culture, have abundant evidence that it’s technologically and, more specifically, quite good evidence that this specific event occurred occurred.

    An extraordinary claim is not identical to the event it is in reference to. This is basic reading comprehension stuff and, frankly, it’s getting a bit annoying having to repeatedly explain such things to an adult. I’m trying to be civil but you’re stretching my patience.


    Okay so you have three terrible friends that would out you, but what if the owner of the liquor store corraborated what your friends said?

    That’s exactly my point. The evidential quality of the sources is far more important than the number of the sources. Which is one of the reasons why I suggested that we look at a specific martyrdom story of your choosing in detail—something, I note, that you have not replied to.

    By the way, what I meant when I said 3 “convicted murderers claiming that I was with them during the robbery of a liquor store” is that they were claiming I was with them, somewhere else, at the time of the robbery (that they were alibi witnesses). Not that I was participating in the robbery with them. But the fault for the misunderstanding here is mine. I phrased the statement in an ambiguous way that could be interpreted in the way you took it just as easily as the way I had in mind.


    You are going to have to be more specifc you have several pervious comments. I don’t see anything there that specifcally addresses the historocity of the “Antiquities of the Jews”, just vague generalizations about numbers of documents and number of years from the event as being historically accurate. Again, I challenge you…prove to me that the “Antiquities of the Jews” is as false as the Bible.

    My point is that I have no need to disprove the Antiquities of the Jews or the Bible. I presented 3 objections to the claim that the supposed martyrdoms are good evidence of the resurrection.

    A. The evidence that they occurred is weak.

    B. The “they wouldn’t die for a lie” idea assumes that they would have been given a chance to recant—something we don’t know or have any good reason to think is true.

    C. They could have been sincere believers but the story of them having seen Jesus in the flesh an exaggeration (they might, for example, have just seen visions and been convinced on that basis—same as Paul).

    Even if we accept that James was martyred (and I certainly don’t rule that out or even think it particularly implausible) you still need to have good reason to think neither B nor C applicable before we can reasonably conclude that Jesus rose from the dead.

  7. David E May 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    By the way, have you read THE ANTIQUITIES OF THE JEWS? Do you even have a basic knowledge of the claims it makes?

    Or do you simply assume it’s reliable because it mentions the Jesus and the death of James?

    Have you even bothered to consider that it might say things you would reject as false (I haven’t read it either and maybe it says nothing that you, as a Christian, would object to as false—but you should at least examine that question and familiarize yourself with the work before arguing for the martyrdom of James based on the historical reliability of this work which you are, I would be willing to bet, almost completely unfamiliar with outside of the two passages quoted by Christian apologists).

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  11. Thomas June 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts
    A good start to researching “the other side”, and would help with the above discussion.

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