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Internet Infidels Newsletter

July 1996

In this issue:


The Craig-Smith Debate

 

[In March of 1996, Internet Infidels launched a fundraising campaign to help support Quentin Smith's participation in a debate on the existence of God with Christian philosopher William Lane Craig. II supporters contributed over $400 to help with Smith's expenses. At the request of II, both Smith and Craig have graciously agreed to provide their accounts of the debate. --Editor]

Quentin Smith's Account of the Debate

In the debate about atheism I held with William Lane Craig on April 4th at the University of Minnesota, my aim was to present in a simplified form the two major arguments for atheism that are currently being presented in scholarly journals and books by professional philosophers. The debate was taped by the Chicago media organization, Turner-Welninski and Associates, for nationwide and international sale in audio and videocassettes. About one-half hour of the talk was broadcast on National Public Radio on April 5th.

My first and main argument was that there are cases of gratuitous evil -- instances of suffering, illness, premature death, etc. -- that are not means to any greater good. If there are such evils, then there is no all-powerful and al-good God.

Currently, professional philosophers, be they atheist or theist, acknowledge the strongest case for "the argument for evil" is the PROBABILISTIC ARGUMENT FROM NATURAL EVILS. Accordingly, I concentrated exclusively on natural evils, for example, animal suffering, the law of eat or be eaten, plagues, diseases and the like. This argument is "probabilistic" in that it allows that it is logically possible that there are greater goods served by animal suffering, diseases and the like, but denies that we have any evidence for the existence of these greater goods. If something is logically possible, but there is no evidence for it, then it is not probable. Thus, the conclusion is that it is merely logically possible for God to exist, but it is not probable that he exists. If theism is improbably true, atheism is probably true.

Craig choose to respond to this argument with a debating technique rather than with a countering philosophical argument. The debating technique is to distract the other speaker from making his full case by misrepresenting the speaker's arguments-- thereby tempting the speaker to spend all his "reply time" in saying "No, that is not what I said". Craig responded by misrepresenting my argument as the claim that the goal of human life is happiness; he countered that the goal of human life is instead to become closer to God.

But this response was logically irrelevant to my argument, which included instances of animal suffering and death. A tiger eating a zebra does not make the tiger or zebra "closer to God", since this applies only to humans.

Craig's "closer to God" response is a version of John Hick's "soul-making theodicy", as I pointed out in my reply. This theodicy, besides not addressing my original argument, is unsuccessful for other reasons: Specifically, it is based on the idea that it is morally good to torture someone (to make them suffer natural evils) in order to motivate them worship you. By analogy, is it morally good for parents to torture their children (e.g., to allow them to contract and suffer painful and deadly diseases) in order than they will venerate their parents more?

I proceeded to present the second main contemporary atheist argument -- the argument from scientific laws. According to science, the present state of the universe is caused by the immediately past of the universe. This is inconsistent with theism, which holds that the present state of the universe is instead caused by God. Secondly, it is a scientific law of psychology that humans are prone to imagine things that do not actually occur, that mental life does not survive the cessation of neural activity in the brain, and that mental life requires a brain to occur at all. This shows that the "resurrection of Jesus", the hypothesis that there exist disembodied minds (God, angels or human minds in "heaven"), and other religious tenants are inconsistent with science.

As Adolf Grünbaum and other leading atheist philosophers have shown, the inconsistency of science and theism shows that theism is "preposterous" in the epistemic sense of the word. A view is not merely false, but is also preposterous, if it is inconsistent with the basic tenets of the modern scientific worldview and the application of logic to observational evidence. Christianity, by rejecting science, is in effect harking back to the mythological ways of thinking that was predominate before modern science evolved.

For example, it is not preposterous but merely false to argue that natural evolution occurred gradually rather than in sudden spurts, followed by long periods where there is no evolution. This is not preposterous since "natural evolution occurred gradually" does not imply a rejection of the modern rational and scientific world-view. But the thesis that "a deity pulls the sun across the sky in a chariot" or that "a person's body was elevated out of a tomb, without a physical cause and in defiance of the laws of gravity, and then came back to consciousness without any brain activity" are statements that imply a fundamental rejection of the modern scientific world-view.

One implication of this is that it is not a sign of a scientifically educated and rational person to be "open-minded" about Christianity. To be "open-minded" would be to imply that one finds it consistent with science and reason that science and reason are to be rejected--but that is a logical contradiction.

This second main argument I presented was also not addressed by Craig. Rather, he attempted a debater's ploy -- to draw me into a discussion, e.g., about "the empty tomb", that would imply that after all I did accept Christianity as an intellectually respectable world-view. But I refused to take the bait. If I did seriously examine the question about whether "witnesses saw an empty tomb", that would already concede to Craig his main point -- that it is not preposterous (inconsistent with the scientific and rational world-view) to believe that a dead person could come back to life without any brain activity and defy the laws of gravity.

One can reflect on this debate and other such debates and ask if a logical refutation of Christianity serves a good purpose, all things considered. Most atheist university professors believe it is wrong to debate Christians at "Campus Crusade for Christ" meetings at university campuses. They believe the mere fact that one is debating the Christians suggests that Christianity is not preposterous and is a theory that Christianity is not preposterous and is a theory that scientifically educated and rational people should take seriously. Conveying this suggestion lends legitimacy to the Christian claim that anti-Darwinist "Creationism" is a serious theory that should be taught at universities along with Darwinism. Most atheist professors also believe that the Christian students who come to these debates are not sufficiently philosophically sophisticated to grasp the logical structure of the arguments, which allows Christian speakers to use "debating tricks" to give the appearance that Christianity is just as plausible a world-view as the modern scientific and rational world-view.

I think this is a serious concern that atheists ought to address. By debating Christians on university campuses, are we not lending an "academic legitimacy" to Christianity, and thereby increasing the danger that law-makers may allow Creationism and other Christian doctrines to be taught in schools? Christians are not convinced to become atheists by these debates; rather, they are left with the impression (since Christianity is debated by two university professors) that Christianity is as intellectually respectable as the modern scientific and rational world-view. Thus, does debating Christians at universities do more harm than good? This is a difficult question to answer -- what do you think?

My experience at the University of Minnesota was a pleasant one. The local atheist groups who funded my trip did more than merely honor all their agreements; they (especially Eric Snyder) also went out of their way to be extra helpful towards me during my stay there. I appreciate very much the kind reception the atheist groups gave me. I am also grateful to Internet Infidels, who raised money to pay for my expenses.

William Lane Craig

On Easter weekend my friend and co-author Quentin Smith and I met in Minneapolis to debate the question of God's existence before a crowd of students at the University of Minnesota. Speaking first, I defended, as usual, two contentions: (I) There is no good reason to think that atheism is true, and (II) there are good reasons to think that theism is true.

In response to my first contention, Quentin presented an extended discussion of the problem of evil, which, he claimed, renders God's existence improbable. He argued that there are gratuitous evils in the world, which God could have prevented. Human free will is not a morally sufficient reason for God's permitting evil because if our human natures were not so defective we would freely choose good, and free will, in any case, is just an illusion. One cannot say that unknown greater goods justify apparently gratuitous evil because if there is no evidence for such goods, they probably do not exist. And if we cannot judge some evils to be truly gratuitous, then we cannot be responsible moral agents.

I replied to Quentin's argument with two basic points: (1) certain Christian doctrines increase the probability of the co-existence of God and evil, thereby decreasing any improbability which evil might appear to throw on the existence of God, and (2) evil actually proves God's existence. With respect to (1) I presented three Christian doctrines to prove the point: (i) the purpose of life is not human happiness as such, but the knowledge of God. Many evils occur in life which may be utterly gratuitous with respect to producing human happiness, but which may not be with respect to the knowledge of God. As empirical evidence of this, I presented figures on the spectacular spread of the Christian faith throughout history and around the world today, especially where suffering has been the most intense. (ii) People freely rebel against God and His purpose. The terrible moral evils in the world are testimony to man's moral depravity in the state of spiritual alienation from God. Against Quentin's (surprising) advocacy of determinism, I argued: (a) determinism far outstrips the scientific evidence, (b) some leading philosophers and neurologists (e.g., Popper and Eccles) are, contrary to Smith's allegation, dualist-interactionists who defend free will, and (c) determinism cannot be rationally affirmed, since the decision to believe in it is then determined (like having a headache). (iii) God's purpose spills over into eternal life. Our sufferings are recompensed with the incommensurable good of eternal fellowship with God.

Against Quentin's point that where there is no evidence for greater goods, they probably do not exist, I argued (a) his epistemological principle is flawed; absence of evidence is evidence of absence only in cases when we should expect to see such evidence if the thing in question existed, and (b) in any case, we do have evidence of the afterlife in the resurrection of Jesus (see below). With respect to (2), I argued that if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist, but that they do exist, as is evident from the reality of evil; ergo, God exists.

To my surprise, Quentin's redefense of his position was very thin. He asserted that if God could not create a world of free creatures who always choose the good, He must be limited. I replied that it may not be possible for God to create such a world (a familiar move in the Free Will Defense). Quentin responded that God is free but always chooses good; so why not make creatures like that? I replied that God is not free to sin, since goodness is essential to His nature, but creatures have goodness contingently and are free to sin. In his final word, Quentin ended by asking why God could not create other creatures who cannot sin.

With regard to contention (II) I presented versions of the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments, an argument from miracle (Jesus's resurrection), and an appeal to religious experience. Again I was surprised that Quentin did not present more powerful objections, since we had exchanged opening speeches in advance. Against my cosmological argument, he objected that the reality of physical causes of states of the universe precludes divine causality. I replied that this ignores the distinction between primary and secondary causes. God conserves the secondary causes in being, and they bring about effects without God's acting as a secondary cause Himself. Quentin answered that the laws of nature do not need God to help a stone fall. Right, I agreed; that would be to posit God as a secondary cause, not as a primary cause.

Quentin made no response to my teleological argument.

Against my moral argument, he asserted that goods exist regardless of God's existence and that moral values are the products of evolution. I charged that these affirmations are prima facie self-contradictory. If moral values are evolutionary by-products, then objective goods do not exist. In any case, all evolution shows is that our ability to recognize values has evolved. Quentin then affirmed that child abuse is objectively morally evil, but insisted that we do not need God to know this. I pointed out that he was confusing the true claim that we can recognize objective values without God with the claim that objective values can exist without God--a false claim if values just are behavior patterns ingrained in us by socio-biological evolution.

Against the resurrection of Jesus, Quentin said that miracles contradict the laws of nature and that humans imagine many things that do not exist. I responded that the laws of nature only render it improbable that Jesus rose naturally from the dead, not that God raised him from the dead. To dismiss the evidence for the resurrection as the result of imagination flies in the face of the consensus of biblical scholarship that Jesus's tomb was found empty, that people experienced post-mortem appearances of Jesus, and that the original disciples came sincerely to believe in Jesus's resurrection in contradiction to normal Jewish beliefs.

Finally, concerning religious experience, Quentin charged that experiences support incompatible religious claims. I pointed out that that fact does nothing logically to undermine the veridicality of my experience, any more than a color-blind person's denying the difference between red and green which I clearly experience. In response Quentin merely repeated his point and said it is preposterous to think, for example, that Shirley McClaine has a veridical religious experience. I responded that religious experience can be defeated by argument, but that in the absence of a defeater I have no reason to deny the veridicality of my experience of God as a living reality in my life. And Quentin had failed to provide any such defeater in that evening's debate.

The debate was conducted in a spirit of good will and mutual respect and seemed to have been enthusiastically received by the student audience.


The Great Debate Gets Personal

Michael Butler

 

[This article was originally printed in the August 1996 issue of Penpoint. The original article includes a response to Martin's "Transcendental Argument for the Non Existence of God" (TANG); I am only reprinting the SCCCS response to the charges made in previous Internet Infidels Newsletters. The original article, including Butler's response to TANG, can be found at <URL:http://www.scccs.org/atheists.html>. --Editor]

Those of us who were followers of Dr. Greg Bahnsen's ministry know that a large portion of his time was spent defending the Christian faith. He is particularly known for his interaction with atheist opponents including a formal debate with Dr. Gordon Stein in 1985 at University of California, Irvine, and with Edward Tabash in 1993 at University of California, Davis. He was also scheduled to debate Professor Michael Martin (Boston University) at Rhodes College in 1994. This last event never took place because of an eleventh hour pull-out by Dr. Martin for what seem to be ambiguous reasons.[1]

The result of both debates was the same-Dr. Bahnsen's trenchant defense of Christian theism appeared to many to overwhelm both opponents. Dr. Bahnsen believed Dr. Martin to be a worthy opponent and regretted they were not able to meet in debate.[2]

Now, after Dr. Bahnsen has been gone for eight months, these three men decided once again that they would like to debate him.[3] The Internet Infidels have published articles and interviews with these men stating their dissatisfaction with both SCCCS and Dr. Bahnsen. Dr. Martin alone has something of substance to say about the philosophical issues.

I will begin this extended issue of Penpoint by addressing the personal attacks against Dr. Bahnsen and SCCCS and then go on to Dr. Martin's criticism of the transcendental argument for the existence of God [TAG for short].

Before beginning I should note that it is generally not the policy of Penpoint to engage in defending our organization from personal attacks. However, since the charges were made public, the Board and staff of SCCCS believe it is necessary for us to respond publicly. It would have been preferable to discuss these issues in a different forum, but since these men chose to make these accusations public before addressing them to us, we must reply in kind.

Dr. Gordon Stein

According to Jeffery Jay Lowder of Internet Infidels: "Gordon Stein concedes that Greg Bahnsen was able to catch him off-guard with TAG [the transcendental argument for God's existence] (although Stein says he now has a refutation of the argument)." Lowder goes on, "[H]e was even more surprised to learn that SCCCS was marketing tapes of the debate. Stein claims that the agreement he signed with Bahnsen allowed each debater to record the debate for their own personal use, but contained no provisions whatsoever for mass-duplication and distribution. Stein does feel this constitutes good grounds for a lawsuit, but does not have any plans to sue SCCCS."

There are two things to be said in response to this statement.[4] First, Dr. Stein's portrayal of the signed agreement is completely inaccurate. The Agreement speaks for itself:

Tape Distribution Agreement:

We the undersigned participants in the debate, "Does God Exist?," held on February 11, 1985, at the University of California, Irvine, hereby grant to one another (and to one another's agents or sponsoring organizations) permission to advertize [sic], distribute and market copies of the audio tape of the debate without financial consideration or remuneration to ourselves for the other debater's advertizing [sic], distribution, or sales of that tape.

We further agree (1) not to edit or alter the tape of the debate which is supplied to us by the Debate Team of U.C.I., and (2) not to distribute or sell any copies of that tape which have been edited or altered.

This statement is signed by Dr. Bahnsen, Dr. Stein, and the debate moderator.[5] Even if a poor memory is to blame for Dr. Stein's error, it is disappointing that he would not take the time to check out the facts before putting forth the threat of a lawsuit.

Second, though Dr. Stein confidently asserts that he now has a refutation of the transcendental argument for God's existence, neither I nor anybody else at SCCCS has ever heard it. Where is this proffered refutation to be found? Until Dr. Stein produces something in writing or on tape, we cannot comment on its substance or value.

One further comment on Dr. Stein. After the debate, he and Dr. Bahnsen engaged in an extended correspondence. They went over TAG in great detail. Their exchange ended in an impasse with, not surprisingly, both disputants believing they had the better of it. Not wanting to let the matter just drop, Dr. Bahnsen suggested that their letters be published so that more objective minds could judge the matter (Prov. 12:15). Dr. Stein's response was to threaten a lawsuit if the correspondence was published.[6] It seems threatening lawsuits is a habit of Dr. Stein's. But even more interesting is the fact that here Dr. Stein had an extended opportunity to refute TAG, but obviously failed to do so (or at least does not want anybody to know about it).

Edward Tabash

According to Mr. Lowder, Mr. Tabash asserts that Dr. Bahnsen "handled himself miserably during the debate," and adds, "he was vicious, harsh, and treated me like a criminal." Moreover, "he never capably responded to my arguments discrediting religious supernaturalism." This is a surprising claim since many who have heard the debate believe that both men behaved in accordance with debate protocal. Such statements are one reason Dr. Bahnsen insisted that debates be recorded. We invite you to listen to the tape and judge for yourself. The only place where Bahnsen may have seemed harsh to some was when he said Mr. Tabash was a fool. He made it clear, however, that this was not a personal slander. Rather, he was quoting from Psalm 14 ("The fool says in his heart 'there is no God'"). Perhaps Mr. Tabash did not agree, but in the absence of his refuting Christianity the biblical description stands.

Mr. Tabash's claim that Dr. Bahnsen never capably responded to his arguments is evidence of his self-deception. The truth of the matter is that Mr. Tabash did not attempt to respond to TAG. It appears he did not even understand Dr. Bahnsen's argument. Again, listen to the debate and judge for yourself.[7]

Dr. Michael Martin

Dr. Michael Martin has had some pointed words for us as well. According to Mr. Lowder, Dr. Martin describes his experience with SCCCS as "one of the most unpleasant in his life." What would he have thought had he shown up for the debate? In any case, if this experience was indeed one of the most unpleasant of his life we must conclude that life must be good at his tax-payer-supported post at Boston University.

Dr. Martin has also stated that the event organizer, Marty Fields, was "mortified by SCCCS's action and expressed amazement that Christians could act in such an un-Christian way." (The action being referred to is a press release that SCCCS sent out after the debate was aborted charging Dr. Martin with having inconsistent and dubious reasons for pulling out.[8]) Skeptical that Rev. Fields made such a remark, I spoke with him shortly after I read this charge and he promptly assured me that he never made such a remark to Dr. Martin or anybody else. He did think the press release was "harsh at points," but this is a far cry from describing it as un-Christian.[9]

Before turning to more substantive issues let me reiterate that SCCCS's intention in defending ourselves and Dr. Bahnsen's reputation against these personal charges is not to embarrass these three men. We would have been happy to have addressed these matters in private and thereby obviate the need to air these matters publicly. Moreover, we are not above criticism. If any of these three men bring forth legitimate complaints about our conduct it behooves us as Christians to take the necessary steps to correct any wrongs we have committed. Nevertheless, none of the charges and innuendoes brought forth so far are justified....

FOOTNOTES

[1] For those with Internet access see our web site for details about Dr. Martin's withdrawal. [http://www.cleaf.com/~covenant].

]2] Call CMF and order tapes of the debates. Also, for a detailed analysis and critique of Dr. Martin's work order "Michael Martin Under the Microscope." Catalog #ASM3-12 tapes-$68.

[3] This reminds me of Gary North's prediction: now that Dr. Bahnsen is gone everybody will want to debate him.

[4] Actually there are three. Since Covenant Media Foundation markets the debate tapes, it would make little sense to sue SCCCS.

[5] For a facsimile of the Agreement see the SCCCS web site.

[6] We are presently talking to our attorney to see if his threatened lawsuit has any merit. If not, look for a publication of their correspondences in the months ahead.

[7] It is interesting to note that, as far as I am aware, neither Dr. Stein nor Mr. Tabash have distributed the debate tapes themselves. You would think, however, that if they were confident of their victories that they would want to get them into as many hands as possible.

[8] For a copy of the press release see the SCCCS web site.

[9] The press release was indeed harsh at points, but sometimes harshness is appropriate. Jesus and Paul were harsh to those who blasphemed against God and those who tried to subvert the Christian faith (Matt. 24; Gal. 1:8, 9) and so harshness is not necessarily incompatible with Christian ethics. Dr. Martin is a man who publishes books attacking the existence of God and the Christian faith and yet refuses to defend his views in a recorded verbal exchange. This is cowardly and should be labeled so.

[10] For a detailed discussion of transcendental arguments in general and TAG in particular, see Dr. Bahnsen's and my tape series, "Transcendental Arguments: Nuclear Strength Apologetics." Available from CMF: Catalog #ASV7-10 tapes-$55.

[Michael Butler can be reached at <email removed>]


A New Censorship Threat

Mathew

 

The development of the printing press was revolutionary; but the net makes it look rather tame. For the first time ever in human history, millions of ordinary people can publish their thoughts instantly to a worldwide audience -- without any form of censorship or editorial bias being imposed on them. Politicians now realize that the net is unlike any other communications medium in human history; they're not sure whether to be ecstatic about the democratic power this gives the people, or terrified.

Consider what you'd have to do if you wanted to put your point across to the world via television. If you're in the US, you can probably get a slot on public access TV, and put your views to an audience of maybe a hundred in your local area. If you manage to get your obscure programme mentioned at all in the TV listings, there's not much chance of anyone noticing it amongst the glossy adverts for blockbuster movies and the big plugs for popular talk shows and sitcoms.

If you want more people to hear what you have to say, you'll have to advertise -- and that means spending money. The cost of a simple 30 second advertising slot in a prime time programme would bankrupt most people. You could try and get space in someone else's commercially-funded show -- but then they'll get editorial control. Chances are, anything you want to say which is controversial -- or which doesn't it into a thirty second 'sound bite' -- will be cut.

Until now, the net has been different. Search engines have offered free listings to all, on an equal basis. If you set up a web site with technical information about Ford motor cars, people searching on Alta Vista will likely find your site *before* they find Ford's official site -- because your site has indexable information, rather than slick content-free images. You may lack the skills of a professional graphic designer, but chances are you can make up for it by delivering interesting content -- quickly.

Scan personal pages for a few minutes, and you can get a dozen opinions and pieces of information on any topic. Try the same with a slick corporate site, and it's like trying to squeeze blood from a highly polished stone. The corporates just don't understand the web; and they hate the fact that more relevant independent sites appear above theirs in search engine listings.

All that could be about to change, however. The Open Text search engine is trying a new money-making scheme: they're letting people *buy* their way to the top of the search results.

In the near future, when you search for (say) "Macintosh", you might get ten paid listings mixed in with the genuine search results. Someone's independent web site discussing Mac resources on the net could be pushed to the bottom of the page, beneath a pile of adverts for cheap floppy disks and free AOL subscriptions.

There are more sinister possibilities. Suppose a colleague has been telling you about the merits of Scientology, and you decide to do a little digging around on the net. Today, you might instantly run into links to pages discussing the cult's attempts to censor via legal action; its threats and intimidation; its well-funded attempts to keep Hubbard's books on the bestseller lists. You might even find out about some of the crazier Scientologist beliefs.

Tomorrow, it could be different. Your search might turn up screen after screen of paid listings for slick, official Church of Scientology pages, designed to reassure you and lure you in.

This new advertising scheme is not like the innocuous GIFs at the top of the pages on Hotwired or Lycos. The new ads look almost exactly like search results, except for a GIF to the left indicating that they're "Preferred" -- the clear implication being that *you* should prefer them to the other sites listed.

Unlike normal web ads, there can be many 'preferred' listings on the one page -- and they push the real search results further and further down the page, to try and get people to read the paid ads first.

Open Text will currently only sell ten slots to advertisers, and show ads in response to one-word searches. But if the scheme is a success, you can bet it won't stop there. The economic pressure will be on to accept more ads, and to insert them in every search.

You may still wonder why it matters; after all, who'd use this lame search engine anyway? Well, if Open Text manage to make money this way, it's a fairly safe bet that most of the other search engines will be tempted to adopt the same strategy. Remember how quickly GIF advert banners infested the web?

Suppose in a couple of years *all* the major search engines are selling 'preferred' listings by the dozen. Suddenly, if you want your web page to be seen by anyone, it won't be enough to provide good content. You'll need to bribe your way up the search engine listings too.

Open Text are charging a minimum of $2000 to ensure your site gets listed in the first ten search results. Could you afford to pay $10000 to get your site listed where people might see it on AltaVista, Lycos, Open Text, Yahoo, and Infoseek?

One thing's for sure: The Internet Infidels couldn't afford it. Our site is maintained entirely by unpaid volunteers, using donated web space. Searching for "atheism" wouldn't get you our pages; instead it might bring up dozens of Josh McDowell apologetics or anti-atheist rants, paid listings funded by rich TV preachers.

If you're scared by that possibility, then the time to fight is *now*. A boycott of Open Text is in progress; information is available at the following location:

<URL:http://www.pobox.com/~meta/rs/ot/>

Please help stop them, before the other search engines follow suit. If the net becomes a place where only the rich can get noticed, then we'll have lost something unique and valuable.

[Mathew can be reached at <(email address removed)>.]


Scientology Tries to Crack PGP Files

Grady Ward

 

[Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is an extremely powerful data encryption program. Grady Ward, an outspoken critic of Scientology on the net, used PGP to encrypt some of his files. After getting sued by the Church of Scientology for alleged copyright violations, Ward was forced to turn over his files to the Church of Scientology. The following article was originally posted by Ward to alt.security.pgp. --Editor]

When the criminal cult seized 1.5 G of my archive disks kept in a safe deposit box they found a whole buncha stuff including many pgp'ed files.

The ones on the Macintosh format disks have "aged" and even I cannot recover the keys (the PGP secret keyring associated with these files has been purged with all backups); another set of files consists of the letter "A" repeated millions of times and IDEA encrypted with large random passphrases using PGP in conventional mode. Compression was turned off and the random passphrases were calculated to exceed the 128 bits of entropy that MD5 can produce.

The last pgp file was one name virus.pgp it had a short password and was maninly intended to keep my kids (and me) from accidentally running one of the several thousand small .com files therein.

The technicians attempting to crack the files must have discovered the passphrase for this file. It contained of course exactly what I said it would contain, not scientology teleology or instructions on how to exorcise the millions of murdered space aliens that the criminal cult teaches that we all must removes (at a high fee per alien).

It is fun having one's files be given the full treatment, though.

From the bill of one of the technicians I calculate that the criminal cult has spent over $80,000 at this point to examine my files. The result is a big zero after three technicians have spent a full month poring over them. Too bad.

We all had high hopes for the fully audited body thetan cleared elite, but I guess the scientology scam is total crap after all.

[Grady Ward can be reached at <(email address removed)>.]


New Material on the Secular Web

  • "How to Defend Atheism" by George H. Smith
  • "McNally's Challenge" by Robert McNally
  • Michael Martin and John Frame have finished their series of exchanges on transcendental arguments and the existence of God. (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/)

The Bank of Wisdom

Jeffery Jay Lowder

 

All net.freethinkers and especially Internet Infidels owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Bank of Wisdom (BoW). The BoW supplied most -- but not all - of the files in the "Historical" section of the Secular Web Library. Veteran supporters of II will remember that, in the Secular Web's early stages, the BoW constituted the bulk of the Secular Web. IIs have since greatly expanded the Secular Web beyond the content of the BoW, but the Secular Web would not be the wonderful resource that it is without the work of the BoW.

The BoW is run by Emmett Fields out of his home in Kentucky. He painstakingly scanned in these works and put them on disks for others to have available. Mr. Fields makes these disks available for only the cost of the media. Each of the files comes with a disclaimer which reads, "Files made available from the BoW may be freely reproduced and given away, but may not be sold."

The Secular Web versions of the BoW files used to have this disclaimer also. Unfortunately, due to a bug in a script we used to give all of the Library files the new "look and feel" of the Secular Web, about mid-June we accidentally deleted the BoW disclaimer from all BoW files on the Secular Web. We do feel very bad about this and have been working hard to correct this as quickly as possible, but on behalf of all Internet Infidels, I wish to publicly apologize to the BoW and Mr. Fields for any damage or inconvenience this may have caused. This is not the way I wanted to show my appreciation to the BoW.

I hope that all readers who have enjoyed the files now located in the "Historical" section of the Secular Web Library (and provided by the BoW) will take a moment to contact the BoW and Mr. Fields at the address below and thank them for their enormous contribution to freethought.

[The BoW can be reached at Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 USA. Mr. Fields can be reached at (email address removed).]


Snail-Mail Address for II; Update on Non-Profit Status

Jeffery Jay Lowder

 

Thanks to the generous support of the Colorado Springs chapter of FFRF, we are now sharing their PO Box. Our address is Internet Infidels, Inc., 711 S. Carson St., Suite 4, Carson City, NV 89701

We are in the process of getting non-profit recognition. Our first step is to get non-profit recognition from the State of Colorado; once that is accomplished we will file for recognition from the IRS. Getting 501(c)(3) exemption from the IRS would make all donations to II tax-deductible. (I'm also told that once we get non-profit status from the IRS, donations made to II prior to getting tax-exempt status may be tax-deductible retroactively, but don't quote me on this.)

We will need donations to move to a commercial server (we are expecting to have to pay over $300/month for the amount of resources we require); once we move to a commercial server we can begin to sell advertising on our page. Several businesses and individuals have already expressed interest in advertising on our server, so we hope to make the Secular Web self-funding. But we cannot accept advertising while we are on the tamu.edu network, and we cannot move to a commercial server without money.


The opinions expressed in the Internet Infidels Newsletter are not necessarily those of the Internet Infidels.

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