Happy Ishtar! How not to conduct a social experiment

Posted: April 21, 2014 in The Bible

This weekend, I discovered I was part of a social experiment. An experiment is usually a scientific procedure carried out within a controlled environment to test a hypothesis, make a discovery or verify a known fact. Unfortunately, the experiment I found myself a part of was far from being scientific or skilfully crafted. Conducted on a Facebook page named Atheism Fails (where I some times contribute), this “experiment” was headed by a self-professed atheist, philosopher, writer and musician named Regan. As it turns out (to my disappointment), this was not an experiment – it was merely fuelling the fire of Regan’s self-importance. Regan joined the Facebook page over Easter before commencing his research and gracefully sharing his insights (all in the name of social science). Firstly, although I was at the receiving end of many accusations and insults, this article isn’t an attack on Regan. I want to highlight a couple of points he has raised on Facebook to demonstrate why his arguments are fallacious (actually, he spent 2 days trolling Facebook and I cannot respond to all his comments). As you can see from the below screen shot, Regan was deliberately abusive…he is conducting a study into “social media” (spanning 5 years) and will be writing up a paper on his findings later this year – I cannot wait to see the results. He has already begun a write up on his “social experiment” which you can read here (on his article, he states from the outset that he was trolling).

self-congratulatory

Does the word ‘Easter’ come from paganism? The answer is a clear no!

 

First and foremost, seeing as it is Easter, I will address the prevalent rumour that the word “Easter” is the name of a pagan goddess. Ishtar (or Astarte) was the Babylonian/Assyrian goddess of fertility. In English, Ishtar sounds phonetically similar to Easter. Therefore, many (such as Regan) claim this is conclusive proof that Easter is a pagan holiday and we are actually venerating Ishtar. On the subject of Easter, Regan gracefully contributed the following: “I think you mean Ishtar…that’s the real Babylonian name for Easter…dummy!”

ishatar

Thank you Regan for your insights.  The source of this claim is perhaps the 19th-century book, The Two Babylons, by the reverend Alexander Hislop. Hislop’s thesis is interesting and somewhat convincing, but it is not sensitive to the evidence. On this matter, Dr Jonathan Sarfati states: “Hislop’s research is very shoddy in many places (Hislop is refuted in A Case Study in Poor Methodology). He tries to see paganism everywhere, on even the flimsiest grounds. In this case, he imagines a connection between Easter and Astarte purely on the basis of sound similarity, with not the slightest trace of linguistic connection or any borrowing. By this spurious method, one could connect the Potomac river with the Greek potamos, although there is no connection between the native American and Greek words. In reality, the word Easter is really Anglo-Saxon (sometimes Ester), not Babylonian. It was the common word for both Passover and Easter.” And: “The Hebrew word for Passover is pesach, which comes from the verb pasach which means to pass over. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek, this word was basically unchanged, becoming the Greek pascha.” I agree with Sarfati when he states: “It is illogical to avoid a Christian-based holiday that brings people together in worship because of some perceived tie to paganism.” Anthony McRoy, a Fellow of the British Society for Middle East Studies and lecturer in Islamic studies at Wales Evangelical School of Theology in the U.K. states: “Of course, even if Christians did engage in contextualization—expressing their message and worship in the language or forms of the local people—that in no way implies doctrinal compromise. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to biblical norms. But, in fact, in the case of Easter the evidence suggests otherwise: that neither the commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism.” However, as for the Easter bunny and Easter eggs – they have very little to do with the Bible. There are various pagan traditions associated with Easter & it would be good to see Christians return to the true Passover celebrations but as the subtitle of this section states: “Does the word Easter come from paganism?”, the answer is no and Christians aren’t venerating Ishtar. For a further analysis on this, Answers in Genesis have an interesting article, read here.


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You don’t need a religion to be moral!

 

Regan informs us that he is on a quest to fight evil and immorality (whilst claiming that people who adhere to a religious belief, which accounts for over 5 billion people on Earth, suffer from a mental delusion and are a danger to society).

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So do you need a religion to be moral? No, of course you don’t. But upon whose authority do you base a moral code? Can an atheist be moral? Yes, of course they can. But, in a random chance universe, in which there is no “higher authority”, man becomes the measure of all things and morality becomes subjective (and essentially arbitrary) thus, the difference between say, Hitler and Mother Teresa, or apples and oranges, would just be a matter of opinion. Regan is far from humble or gracious yet he claims to be morally superior. By his own standards, he is totally correct! Regan’s moral authority is himself – at a whim, he can (and does) define his standard of morality & condemns others who fall short of his own irrational judgement. If the universe is the result of random and unguided events, how do we justify morality, the laws of logic and the uniformity in nature (the preconditions of intelligibility[i])?

You can accept one of two beliefs:

  1. The universe and all life within it are the result of natural, random and unguided events (a naturalist, materialist, secularist, agnostic or atheist worldview).
  2. The universe and all life within it are part of an intelligent design (a creationist, deist or theist worldview).

People’s worldviews are shaped from birth and influenced by factors such as family, education, society, media and religion. Every scientist, archaeologist and historian has access to the same data but it’s the interpretation of that data which can vary.

My own reasoning (or the foundations of my reasoning) is thus:

Can DNA originate by itself through unguided natural events? No, it isn’t what is observed in nature. Do unguided cell mutations or natural selection (the fundamental Darwinian mechanisms) add new functionality to a living system? Evolutionary biology lacks examples of true gain-of-function mutations – many examples demonstrate that mutations do not generally add functionality, they reduce complexity or rearrange existing information. Biological systems are information systems & DNA is an information molecule – physical/chemical processes do not give rise to information nor do they produce functional information systems (neither the hardware or software). Therefore, there must be a God.

Conclusion – how not to conduct a social experiment

 

As you can see, Regan comes across as a fundamentalist (yet fundamentalism is everything he stands against). He does not conduct himself in a professional manner. He is quite irrational and inconsistent and I witnessed him make countless mistakes in his reasoning (he also diagnosed religious people with a mental disorder but personally, I don’t trust his analysis). Regan, you have thoroughly damaged the credibility of your social media study and I would even speculate (based on your conduct) that there is no study.

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People like Regan focus their anger towards a hypothetical image of what they imagine God must be like – stop shaking your fist at the sky, Regan! As an example of self-imposed intellectual dysfunction, you are in a whirl of contradictions & I therfore diagnose you with intellectual schizophrenia (note: I am not a doctor. Please console God immediately).

[i] Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation (Master Books, 2009), 42.

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