Did CMI mischaracterize the motivation for atheists’ ‘deconversion’?
Published: 5 March 2011 (GMT+10)
Elliot L. from the United States wrote to CMI, concerned that we were mischaracterizing the motivation of atheists who “deconvert” from Christianity. His letter is printed in full, followed by a point-by-point response by Lita Sanders. Then Dr Jonathan Sarfati, a Hebrew Christian, explains the origin of the word ‘Palestine’
I will start by saying that although I do not agree with your views, I respect them. I am a converted atheist (converted from Catholicism) and came to my religious conclusion by way of making a pact to myself to have no religious influence for a year and look at all the evidence from both sides. I expected to confirm my beliefs, but I could not deny the evidence, and the lack of evidence for creationism. So I wonder how you or your web site could say that atheists are afraid of a creator that they would have to ‘face-up’ to (I am talking of the e-book Refuting Evolution chapter 9 and the answer given to discussion question 4) if you (obviously) are not an atheist yourself. I could say that the theistic are that way because they are afraid of being alone in the world, or are afraid of simply not existing, or both. I do not use this argument because I do not hold theistic beliefs. I ask you to please not talk of the workings of my mind. You do not know my mind and I do not know yours. I hope that you could use this as a learning experience, and that later on down the road, you will not talk of things you know nothing about.
I will start by saying that although I do not agree with your views, I respect them.
That is a rare enough attitude among atheists.
I am a converted atheist (converted from Catholicism) and came to my religious conclusion by way of making a pact to myself to have no religious influence for a year and look at all the evidence from both sides.
With all due respect, if you were excluding religious influence, then you were not truly looking at both sides! That would be like me saying, “I will exclude all Catholic influences and see whether Catholicism or Protestantism is correct.”
I expected to confirm my beliefs, but I could not deny the evidence, and the lack of evidence for creationism.
Of course, if you’ve read our site at all, you will know that we disagree. Just because you did not see evidence for creation does not mean that there was none; you may have been looking in the wrong places, or with the wrong assumptions, etc.
So I wonder how you or your web site could say that atheists are afraid of a creator that they would have to ‘face-up’ to (I am talking of the e-book Refuting Evolution chapter 9 and the answer given to discussion question 4) if you (obviously) are not an atheist yourself.
It would have been helpful if you had given a more precise quote from the book; I took a quick look through the chapter and found nothing that communicated that atheists were afraid of a Creator. Likewise, the discussion question would not have automatically inspired that response when asked along with reading the chapter.
Although none of us who work for CMI are currently atheists, many of us once were, and were converted to Christianity out of atheism by precisely the evidence for creationism that you claim does not exist. The author of Refuting Evolution, Jonathan Sarfati, is an example of someone who was converted to Christianity because of the strong evidence that the Bible’s claims, including those it makes about origins, are reliable (you can read more about this here).
I could say that the theistic are that way because they are afraid of being alone in the world, or are afraid of simply not existing, or both. I do not use this argument because I do not hold theistic beliefs.
Saying that those who believe in God do so for only one reason is as simplistic as saying that those who do not believe in God do so for only one reason. People hold beliefs for many different reasons; I don’t presume to know why you hold yours.
I ask you to please not talk of the workings of my mind. You do not know my mind and I do not know yours. I hope that you could use this as a learning experience, and that later on down the road, you will not talk of things you know nothing about.
Perhaps you might consider that, as people who once were non-Christians, some of us might know something about some of the motivations that underlie the atheist worldview. I was also once an unbeliever who was convinced that Christianity was true in part by the evidence for creation.
Frankly, I might have learned more from your email if there had been more substance to your correspondence. I hope you take the time to read through our site, and see some of the things we think point to creation. The Design Features Questions and Answers page as well as the Young Age of the Earth and Universe page would be good places to start.
Creation Ministries International
Origins of the word “Palestine”
Some correspondents have objected to phrases in our articles such as “The 925 BC campaign into Palestine in year 20 of Shoshenk I” and “Conversely, there is much about parochial Palestinian Jewish issues that would have been of little interest to much later churches.” The objectors argue that the Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed Judea “Syria Palaestina” in AD 135 after the Philistines as an insult to the Jews. This, and expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, was punishment for the Bar Kochba rebellion.
Jonathan Sarfati replies:
I am ethnically Jewish myself, and I am a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist and a staunch opponent of “Palestinian” Arab terrorists. But as a historic term, I see no objection. My great uncle was the first New Zealander to settle in the Holy Land, as long ago as 1928—Dr Edward Joseph, who became Head of Surgery at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem for 30 years. Many of his descendants live in Israel to this day. The Jewish documents and conversations from that time referred to emigrating to “Palestine”. Also, the “Palestine” chess team in the 1939 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires comprised Jews such as Moshe Czerniak (1910–1984, Hebrew: משה צ‘רניאק) (see team photo), the “Palestinian Chess Champion”, who, eight years after Israel’s independence, founded the first Israeli chess magazine, 64 Squares.
In fact, the name Palestine (Greek Παλαιστίνη Palaistinē) appears as far back as the 5th century BC in the famous historical writings of Herodotus, who says that its inhabitants were circumcised:
The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine themselves confess that they learnt the custom of the Egyptians; and the Syrians who dwell about the rivers Thermodon and Parthenius, as well as their neighbours the Macronians, say that they have recently adopted it from the Colchians. Now these are the only nations who use circumcision, and it is plain that they all imitate herein the Egyptians. (Histories 2 (Euterpe))
Aristotle likewise uses the name as a real place in which he says there is a fabled ultra-salty lake, which we now know to be the Dead Sea, proving that Palestine must refer to the Land of Israel:
Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salt that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them. (Meteorology 2(3))
Furthermore, David Jacobson points out:
Jewish writers such as Philo, in particular, and Josephus, who flourished while Judea was still formally in existence, used the name Palestine for the Land of Israel in their Greek works.1
So where did this ancient name come from? It’s unlikely that it has anything to do with the Philistines, since the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (c. 250 BC) calls the Philistines something quite different: Φυλιστιιμ Phylistiim, a transliteration of the Hebrew. Rather, it is far more likely that the name comes from the Greek παλαιστής palaistēs, wrestler, from Greek παλαιώ palaiō, wrestle). Jacobson points out:
The striking similarity between the Greek word for ‘wrestler’ (palaistes) and the name Palaistine—which share seven letters in a row, including a diphthong—is strong evidence of a connection between them.1
So, why “wrestler”? Because this goes back to the origin of the name Israel itself. Genesis 32:22–32 describes God (probably the pre-incarnate Christ) wrestling with Jacob, then renaming him “Israel”, after whom the Israelite nation was named. The Greek Septuagint even uses two derivations of the word palaiō in this passage.
It’s also notable that the term “Palestine” doesn’t appear in the Koran. It was only after Israel’s devastating victory in the Six Day War in 1967 that the term “Palestinian” was applied to Arabs living in or near Israel.
- Jacobson, D., When Palestine meant Israel, Biblical Archaeology Review 27(3):42–47, May/June 2001; Palestine and Israel, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 313:65–74, Feb 1999. Return to text.