Why Do Atheists Still Believe in a Flat Earth?

Why Do Atheists Still Believe in a Flat Earth?

Last week I had an online exchange with a very contrary atheist that kept changing the subject every time I tried to get him to back up his assertions. One of the things that he brought up was the “fact” that the Bible said the earth was flat. He claimed several times that the Bible didn’t know the earth was round because we didn’t discover it until the 1600s, therefore the Bible was written by man.

Really.

I always find it amusing when the very people who say that they do not believe in God because “there is no evidence” neglect to check the evidence of their own claims. They are not only denying the vast amount of evidence for God, but they base their arguments on myths and atheistic memes that a simple Google search would dispel. Which one of us is really working from “blind faith”?

Here is a James Hannam quote from a Wikipedia article that was at the top of the list on a Google search for “flat earth”;

The myth that people in the Middle Ages thought the earth is flat appears to date from the 17th century as part of the campaign by Protestants against Catholic teaching. But it gained currency in the 19th century, thanks to inaccurate histories such as John William Draper’s History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Atheists and agnostics championed the conflict thesis for their own purposes, but historical research gradually demonstrated that Draper and White had propagated more fantasy than fact in their efforts to prove that science and religion are locked in eternal conflict.[9]

And another quote from the same article;

According to Stephen Jay Gould, “there never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness’ among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the Earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.”[3] Historians of science David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers point out that “there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge [Earth’s] sphericity and even know its approximate circumference”.[4]

So you see, this historical myth is widely known to be false and easy to debunk with only a few moments’ research. In the past, with the widespread illiteracy and lack of education, it is understandable if the common man had some misconceptions, but anyone spreading such falsehoods about history in the present day is either willfully ignorant, or intentionally malicious. This is not to say that some primitive or eastern cultures did not adhere to this belief, but this was far from universal. This looks like another one of those things, that when repeated often enough, takes on a life of its’ own. It doesn’t matter that it has been thoroughly refuted, it is a standard part of their toolbox and they refuse to give it up.

Later I may address the Bible verses that critics use to claim a Judeo-Christian flat earth tradition. I suspect that it will be a lengthy post as there are many ways to twist the scriptures, and many scriptures to twist. The atheist I was dealing with refused to point to a specific passage to support his declaration, preferring to accuse me of not knowing my Bible. I guess he was expecting me to make his case for him. The closest thing to a reference I got from him was “look it up in Deuteronomy and Job”. When I started researching what verses are popularly used to support such accusations I found none listed for either of those books. Hmm, methinks he was just blowing smoke and had no idea what he was talking about, just passing along something he had heard, again.

I have had some very interesting debates with atheists. Thoughtful people who have had a case to make and have had support for their claims. We have had polite arguments that ended without hard feelings and with agreements to disagree. Unfortunately these are the exceptions, not the rule. Most internet atheists (at least the most vocal ones) seem to prefer to shout about lack of proof on your part, while expecting you to accept their unsubstantiated assertions. They deny any evidence you present while expecting you to accept their bald proclamations as fact, proclamations that they themselves have never bothered to research. Why do they bother?

OK, I’m done with my rant now. I was feeling very frustrated over this and it feels better to get it off of my chest. I see it as an instance of casting pearls before swine, and realize that I should expect this once in awhile.

 

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9 Comments

  1. “They are not only denying the vast amount of evidence for God…”

    With such an abundance of evidence as you allege, perhaps you will send a morsel or two our way. For even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. As for the flat Earth, this was held to be true as late as the New Testament period, when Satan took Jesus on a high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the Earth at the same time, including China and the Mayans and Incas, something that is not possible with a spherical Earth.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the comment! You are the very first on this brand new blog. I haven’t even finished playing with the layout yet.

      As for the evidence I am sure you are aware of the standard arguments such as Objective Morality, Cosmological, Teleological, etc.etc.

      You can say that you are not convinced by the evidence these arguments are based on, or that the evidence is weak, but to say there is no evidence at all would not be intellectually honest. Some of the greatest minds in history, and the modern age, have been convinced by using these arguments and abductive reasoning.

      As for the temptation, even someone living at that age would realize that there are limits to how far you can see. No one would think you would be able to see the entire earth from one vantage point. Satan is a supernatural being and this whole incident has supernatural overtones, so why would this one part need to be interpreted in a purely physical way?

      Reply
  2. By a coincidence, just now I published a blog article on the Cosmological argument: http://badinage1.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/hydrogen-hydroxide-the-eternal-compound/

    I like to look at the old questions in new ways and try to think outside the box. I specialize in reading the scriptures for what they actually say rather than just going by traditional interpretations or cherry picking verses. When you suggest that Satan used supernatural power to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in one go, that is the sort of thing I like to throw back in the face of those who hold the Bible to be the literal, inerrant word of God.

    Reply
    • Interesting article. Very imaginative interpretation. I think that may in fact be a new way of looking at that passage.

      In Moses’s song about the Exodus I don’t think he literally meant that God manifested an arm to strike the Egyptians. I don’t think the hills actually sing in the Psalms. I don’t think the Armor Of God are physical items.

      I also don’t think our high school basketball team slaughtered their opponents. I don’t think the sun rises. I don’t think someone needs glue when they say “you crack me up”.

      I believe the Bible is true, but it is written in common language for the common man. I think that in order to understand the more subtle points you need to know about the audience it was written to and the point of view of the writer. I think it is intentionally vague on some things, but clear on the important stuff.

      Reply
  3. Luke lists Adam in the genealogy of Christ, and Christ puts forth Noah and Jonah as real historical figures and signs of his coming kingdom. So when modern science assails the historicity of Adam, Noah, and Jonah, the Christian is faced with the stark choice of defending the scriptures as written, or saying that Christ was speaking in only a supernatural, metaphorical, poetic, spiritual, or symbolic sense. Since the latter are soft targets that move with every objection, redefining at will what is literal and symbolic, I can only really dialogue with the former believers who stand by their guns. However, the latter have opened the door to applying the same process to a growing list of other biblical claims, such as the miracles, including the resurrection itself.

    Reply
    • How has science assailed the historicity of Adam, Noah and Jonah? This is a new claim to me. Where can I read more?

      I am not saying we can redefine at will. What I am saying is that we need to use hermeneutics and exegesis to help us determine the true meaning of the text. We need to make sure we are reading out of it and not reading into it. It was written at a different time and for different cultures. With our built in biases we can not assume we are getting the whole meaning with a cursory reading.

      I want to say again that the critical things are made clear, but there is room to argue on some of the side issues.

      Reply
  4. Adam was created in 4163 BCE (I show my work here) but we have remarkable cave paintings dating to about 25,000 years ago.

    The Noah thing doesn’t work because wind cannot evaporate 1.1. billion cubic miles of water in just a few weeks.

    Jonah. Serious? You need fresh air to survive for three minutes, let alone three days.

    I don’t have an issue with people who interpret these things spiritually. I do have a problem when these things are put forth as something we must teach our children in public schools.

    Reply
    • Now that I have a few minutes I will try to write a reply. I don’t have much time to devote to this blog.

      Jonah should be the easiest. The short answer is, it was a miracle. In Matthew 12:40 Jesus compares what happened to Jonah to what is going to happen to him. This is a confirmation, miracle to miracle. In Jonah 2, inside the fish Jonah is praying to God from what sounds like the grave, or Hell, then the first thing God says to him after the fish spits him up is “Arise”. One school of thought is that this indicates that Jonah actually died, and was resurrected, which would match even more closely when Jesus compares Jonah’s experience to what he prophecies is going to happen to him.

      The timeline you worked out for Biblical dates was very impressive. It is obvious that you put a lot of work into it. I can’t say that my response will have the same amount of personal work involved, as I am going to link to an article on RTB. It is an in-depth look at the whole business of genealogies in the Bible. Why they differ one from another, and from modern ones. This gets into the meaning of the Hebrew words and usages. I do not pretend to know Hebrew, but it sounds plausible, so I am willing to give it consideration. I believe that since the Bible speaks so much of seeing God’s handiwork in nature (General Revelation), that we can trust what we observe. If these observations do not match what we glean from the Bible (Special Revelation), then we need to either check our observations, our preconceptions, or our interpretations of both Revelations. They should be in harmony. I am not saying that I agree completely with this article, but it does make more sense than a young earth view. Here is the link. http://www.reasons.org/articles/the-genesis-genealogies

      Noah is a tough one. I could just claim “miracle” and be done with it, but that seems like a cop out. What I have been reading a lot about lately is the local flood theory. If mankind had never expanded further than the Mesopotamia Plain, then the flood would be world-wide, the world of men, without being global. There are other precedents of using “world” this way. When Joseph’s family comes to Egypt it says the whole world was experiencing a famine and the whole world came to Egypt. It also says the whole world sought an audience with Solomon to hear his wisdom. Again, I am not completely convinced of this argument, but it does seem to fit the facts well, if you compare it to the traditional interpretation. RTB also has articles on this subject. They have produced an impressive old earth creation model.

      I’m not advocating teaching this stuff in a public school, unless it is in a comparative religion class. I don’t think any of these things are central to the message of the Bible, and no creed has ever insisted on a particular interpretation of these issues. I think the Bible should be taught in the appropriate settings, namely within a body of believers and in the family.

      Thank you for this exchange. I find it challenging and thought provoking.

      Reply

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