Christians often say to Withteeth and I that we can’t properly understand Christianity intellectually and that we just have to believe. We often get told that we should simply believe. I can’t for the life of me figure out how anybody can think that this is a convincing argument.
Withteeth and I understand full well that our not being Christians means that we cannot fully comprehend Christianity as a believer would. However, we do not think that this is a handicap for us. After all, a Baptist and a Mormon both accept two different versions of Christianity (don’t tell me Mormons aren’t Christians: I don’t care), but that doesn’t mean that a Baptist can’t understand Mormonism. The Baptist will not understand the way the Mormon does, and will likely not understand why the Mormon is Mormon rather than a Baptist, but that doesn’t mean that the Baptist can have no understanding of Mormonism. So the argument that we can’t understand Christianity without being Christians is merely a way to invalidate the problems that we bring up without actually addressing them.
But let’s just think about this idea that we’re supposed to just not worry about the problems and ignore what we actually believe and force ourselves to accept Christianity. As I’ve said before, I never chose to be an atheist. I didn’t wake up one day and decide that I didn’t want to believe in God anymore. I also never chose to be a Christian when I was one. I was born to Christian parents. All my relatives were Christian. As far as I knew, all of my classmates were Christian. At the time, Christianity seemed self-evident. When I became an atheist it was because I could not force myself to continue believing in Christianity. I simply found it no longer convincing. I also didn’t find any other religion convincing. As such, I accepted that I was an atheist. But I’m supposed to ignore all that and just make myself believe? For those of you who are Christians, could you make yourself be an atheist? Could you simply chose not to believe in God and succeed? If so, do you truly believe?
A while ago, Withteeth and I discussed what it would look like to make ourselves believe and how successful we thought we would be. And, of course, how we thought people would respond. It all began when Ryan Bell announced that he was an atheist. I think both Christians and atheists reacted much the same when Ryan Bell first announced his intent to live a year without God. Many atheists wondered if he was some evangelical who was trying to prove that atheists can’t be moral or something, though many were convinced that he was in the process of deconverting (which, of course, ended up being the case). Many Christians, however, were afraid of what the experiment would mean for Ryan Bell. They were afraid that he was condemning himself to hell, or that he was lost and needed to be found. This reaction tells Withteeth and I a lot about what we could expect if we did something similar. If we decided that we were going to live as Christians for a year to fake it till we make it as a number of Christians have suggested, how would people react? Wouldn’t a number of Christians assume that we were being dishonest and deceitful? Would many Christians really welcome us with open arms knowing that we didn’t truly accept their beliefs? I’m sure a number of you would like to think that we would be welcomed in such a way, but we’ve dealt with the disdain that many Christians feel towards atheists. We’ve experienced the mistrust and the personal attacks. As such, I can’t imagine that we would be as accepted as Christians think we would be. We’d also have to deal with how other atheists would respond, but I’m not worried about that.
However, how people would react isn’t the real issue, it is merely another hurdle to our actually believing. Neither Withteeth nor I believe that we actually could believe. Even if we spent a year living as Christians, even if we read the Bible, went to church every week, joined church groups, and only associated with Christians, we do not think that we could “just” believe. Why? Because we don’t find it convincing. Surrounding ourselves with the community wouldn’t make Christianity convincing, it just makes it more difficult to leave Christianity once you already believe it. The only way Withteeth and I could ever believe would be to be convinced intellectually. As such, telling us to stop looking at Christianity intellectually, and that we can’t possibly understand it that way, isn’t helpful. In fact, it’s counter-productive (unless you just want us to stop questioning your beliefs, in that case it’s dishonest and I’d like to know what you’re so worried about). It’s unlikely that Withteeth and I will ever become Christians (or, in my case, become Christians again), but, if we were to do it, it would have to be because we were convinced through intellectual pursuit.
May 28th, 2015 at 4:47 pm
I studied with Mormons for a time. I was doing my best to take their theology seriously because I had friends whom I did, and still do, respect that were Mormon, and because I felt, at the time, that they at least, as a group, living with a decent degree of integrity to their faith and were one of the few religions at least trying to give meaningful answers to the big questions people have about religion (though I ultimately found those answers unsatisfying).
They would say something similar all the time and, ultimately, one bishop (something like their pastors, if you are unfamiliar with their organizational structure) told me, “You’re problem is you think too much! You have to just go with what you FEEL!” That was a great relief to me, and I told him so. “Whew, good, because this doesn’t feel right, so I’m not going to be part of it anymore.”
I think many of the people who say things like “You just have to believe” have the mistaken view that on some fundamental level, people emotionally connect to whatever their brand of religion is. On the contrary, for many people, most organized religions, when examined closely, represent behaviors that are emotionally repugnant.
William James’ excellent essay “The Will to Believe” is not what many people think it is. There is a degree of faith in almost all (if not all) beliefs, regardless of the evidence we have, some more than others and I even think it is fair to grant the point that there are some beliefs for which we will miss some of the evidence if we do not first commit (the act of committing or reaching out presents opportunities for evidence to manifest itself or be presented), but James lays out clear criteria that must first be met for such beliefs to work. If I don’t even have enough evidence to take an option seriously as a candidate for belief AND I don’t particularly like the belief or its implications, no will on my part is going to convince me to make such a huge leap.
May 28th, 2015 at 3:18 am
I think the Christians who have told you this are confused and, more than likely, ignorant of their own tradition. While I would argue that Christianity is not purely an intellectual endeavor–because it is more fundamentally a way of living life (which is why Jesus told people to pick up their cross and follow him) – it is also not a path to be followed blindly or unintelligibly.
I think your search for truth and understanding is admirable and in keeping with the richness of Christian tradition which reaches back to the very foundation of Church. 🙂
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May 28th, 2015 at 4:29 pm
Indeed, Paul is recorded as having convinced/persuaded people “with arguments,” the Bereans were praised as “more noble” than others because they “received” (but not necessarily accepted) “the word” with [mental] readiness, but then “searched” or “examined” the scriptures to determine their truth/merit, and John encourages disciples not to accept every “spirit,” “inspired statement,” etc., but to test it out first. Strong faith must be based on such a foundation.
May 25th, 2015 at 1:40 am
[…] been discussing religion with some of its adherents. Over at the HessianWithTeeth blog, Hessian wrote about how many Christians want to tell non-Christians “just believe”. A Christian, Skinbark, […]
May 24th, 2015 at 7:40 pm
[…] been discussing religion with some of its adherents. Over at the HessianWithTeeth blog, Hessian wrote about how many Christians want to tell non-Christians “just believe”. A Christian, Skinbark, […]
May 22nd, 2015 at 1:01 pm
I think there is some validity to this “just believe” bit, but not in the way that most Christians would think, in that it’s not rooted in ignorance. Firstly I would like to say though that contemporary Christians are the worse possible example of Christian doctrine and what Jesus and the Bible represent. I often tell people don’t judge Christianity off it’s followers, but judge it’s followers off Christianity.
But as far as the whole “just believe” for me the reason I think there is some truth to this is because I personally believe that in order to come to know God we have to obey from the heart. The scriptures tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the WORD of God. Often times we want hardcore material evidence in order to believe, it’s gotta be palpable to some degree or another. But God doesn’t reveal himself in this way, it’s through hearing and harkening to that small still voice that so many tend to suppress, that’s what faith really is. Indeed there is no evidence for spoken words, but His sheep hear His voice and they respond.
May 22nd, 2015 at 5:23 pm
How can you know that that voice is actually your god and not just you? If you can’t know, then why believe it’s anything other than yourself?
May 22nd, 2015 at 6:17 pm
Good question, I think in general we know the truth when we hear it, not necessarily talking about God issuing commands to drink this or kill that, as is so often where peoples minds genuflect to when talking about “hearing God’s voice.” I’m talking more about that small still voice that has been programmed into our hearts that allows us to recognize the Truth when we hear it, I firmly believe we have this capacity to discern what’s true and what’ not just by hearing it, God has written his words on our heart and his Spirit bears witness with our spirit that he is real. I think it requires someone to be very honest with themselves which also requires a great deal of self-discipline.
The whole concept of faith is built around being able to hear the truth and harken to it without requiring physical demonstrations, this is a quality that we embrace in all our relationships.
May 28th, 2015 at 4:17 pm
I’m not certain that everyone hears that still small voice, or, at least not in a way that makes sense to/for them to refer to it as a still small voice. Additionally, though the Bible tells of a few potential exceptions, I think if one is hearing that voice without already having some basis for faith, it is generally a good idea not to hearken to it. If we grant the qualities attributed to God by the Bible, then he would clearly have the ability to speak to us in a still small (or in a roaring) voice, but even then, even if he did so with no demonstration of an inclination on our part to want him to speak to us, I think many, if not most, of us would fail to recognize a voice or hear anything it said. And I don’t mean this in any sort of “you don’t hear/believe in God, b/c you don’t want to” or “you’re evil,” etc. I’m talking more about sociolinguistics, cognitive psychology, and mental framing. If we don’t already have some basis for faith, we are not likely to have the kind of mental framework or cognitive framing of our perceptions to interpret what we perceive as a “voice” from, or directed by, God, even if it really were from God.
In a rough sense, I think this is part of the problem Hessian is raising. SOME Christians, and they are anathema to both Christians and atheists, either truly have a very narrow mental/conceptual frame of the world (and to them I apologize for referring to them as anathema, b/c in that case it is simply pitiable) OR, more often I think, they limit themselves to living (or pretend that they live) within a small subset of their actual conceptual frame. In either case, they don’t acknowledge that there are other mental frames, and so long as this is true, they will not be able to engage in truly meaningful discourse on the subject, nor identify potential sources of evidence that might help to narrow the gap between their view and someone else’s. Convincing someone only sometimes involves showing that one to be mistaken. Often, it involves helping someone to see that it is possible to view the same situation/issue/phenomena in another way and THEN discussing the merits of viewing it one or the other (or in some cases, both, depending on the context).
May 29th, 2015 at 2:42 am
Hey James, I like what you had to say, I think your right about a lot of things, I think some of the things you have to say oddly enough kind of line up with what scripture would have to say as well.
I’ll concede that I did a pretty poor job articulating myself here. I think that small still voice could better be attributed to the voice of reason, as rational creatures I believe we have the capacity to deduce some sort of logical inference, simply enough my assumption of God rest on the seemingly reasonable conclusion that creation requires a creator.
As far as hearing God’s voice directly, yes I think this requires some sort of basis or framework outside of this anonymous ‘small-still voice’ inside of us.
I’m actually in the process of writing a post about whether or not its logical to believe in a creator behind the creation and how God has historically clarified his voice to his creation. I’m trying to construct a more pragmatic approach to explaining my faith as opposed to appealing to these theoretical arguments. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on it when I finish. I have been writing it with more objective and analytical people such as you in mind, seeing if I couldn’t appeal to some higher level of structural reasoning. Perhaps I can post a link to you here when I finish it.
May 29th, 2015 at 8:49 pm
I’d be happy to read the post. Be careful what you sneak into your argument without perhaps realizing it yourself. “Creation” requires a creator, but being or existence doesn’t. If it did, the creator couldn’t exist, at least not without an infinite regress (which may be unavoidable anyway, for both theists and atheists and everyone else). Starting off talking about creation already builds in a creator.
For the record, I believe in a creator, and so far as I can tell, my belief is consistent with what can be known empirically, but it also does not necessarily follow from it. When I discuss religion, theology, etc., I try to meet them where they are, and build whatever understanding we can achieve from the foundations we hold in common.
May 30th, 2015 at 2:47 am
I really like the things you have to say and the feedback you give, you don’t seem restricted by philosophical and scientific biases which is rather refreshing.
I wanted to say that I couldn’t agree more with what you were saying about how,
” “Creation” requires a creator, but being or existence doesn’t. If it did, the creator couldn’t exist.. Starting off talking about creation already builds in a creator.”
Your absolutely right, ‘being’ or ‘existence’ doesn’t require a creator, for I firmly believe God exists as an eternal being. My usage of the word creation refers to precisely that which has known to be created. The root of my argument takes aim at the atheistic ideology that the universe popped out of nothing, for since the 30’s the scientific data has revealed to us that the universe is not eternal like scientist had once thought. Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe and Einsteins work on general relativity and space-time have clearly revealed that time and matter had a definitive beginning, the ‘big-bang’ if you would. Though scientist today have tried to redefine nothing to actually be some sort of quantum-vacuum in which out of nothing pops something (though clearly a quantum-vacuum is not nothing, but that’s a different argument.) thus my meaning behind the phrase ‘creation requires a creator’ is taking up arms against this notion that the world, which we know to have had a beginning, has come about out of thin air as opposed to being the product of a creator. If there was evidence that the world was eternal then my argument would indeed be completely invalid.
June 1st, 2015 at 3:13 am
Hey James I just published the post, I appreciate you taking the time to critique it.
May 29th, 2015 at 10:26 pm
Missed this. The comment section has been crazy lately.
I think a good deal of falsely convicted people would disagree with you on that. I don’t think we have any inbuilt truth detection, or at least not for everything, and none of it is that reliable.
That small still voice generally what Id call instinct, can be damn useful in situation where you are best to take the cautious path, but that really isn’t bout what true it about risk vs reward. We are going to assume the bush in the forest (or at least out instinct will assume) rustled because of an animal not the wind, because the risk of mistaking the wind for an animal comes with far few consequences then the risk of mistaking a hostile animal for the wind. Even if the former is far more likely then the latter.
That instinct isn’t so much telling you the truth it’s informing you of the risks. This coupled with confirmation basis makes for people thinking that instinct gives greater insight then it actually does, because they are not accounting for all the times it’s been wrong, they don’t know (because they didn’t look in the bush). While they overplay the times it did work out to be true.
This isn’t to say instinct can’t be useful, but it should be thought as an effective alternative to evidence and other sources of information. It’s just good when you have little or nothing to go on (also as an aside this can be handily explained by natural selection because the line of people who tend to assume the bush rustled because of a hostile animal tended to live longer and reproduce more those who assumed the wind did it.)
But yes I don’t think people are actually very good determining the truth, and I think instinct is suited toward survival, not truth detection. Though I’m pretty damn sure this has been heavily tested, so it might be worth having another look to see what the research says.
May 29th, 2015 at 10:37 pm
Here are one papers on the subject. I’ll see if I can pull up more research but mostly newspaper articles.
Though looking through some articles this reminded me of a way of putting it. Mostly that trusting your instinct tends to have results better then 50/50. These emotional response are heuristic devices, cognitive short cuts, they are fast en effective. Algorithmic method, such a logic, or science or just carefully considering the evidence you have, while generally a good deal slower tend to be correct a great deal more often.
May 30th, 2015 at 11:06 pm
Hessian (Withteeth?) You seem to be referring more to a distinction between what Kahneman refers to as fast thinking (instincts, short cuts, pattern recognition and recall) and slow thinking than between what Nathaniel David is calling the “still small voice” and instincts. (I’m happy to provide a citation or two if you’re interested and not already familiar with it.)
You’re right to call Nathaniel out on the truth detection bit, although I suspect he simply didn’t express precisely what he intended. I don’t think he means to suggest that the still small voice will tell us (if we only listen!) whether claims in general are true. I’m guessing he’s referring to what some ethicists and meta-ethicists have wondered about the existence of any universal ethical principles and to Paul’s discussion in Romans , in which he states,
“14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)”
There do appear to be some basic principles, moral principles, that cut across cultural boundaries. This is probably also a reason why the subject of “personhood” is so important in ethics. These principles that cut across cultures apply to persons–historically it is not the principles, but the question of to whom the principles apply (i.e., who is a person?) that varies.
May 31st, 2015 at 12:16 am
And Paul also refers to these basic principles not only in morality, but in our understanding of the world we live in.
19 because that which is known about God is evident [m]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not [n]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools.
These qualities have nothing to do with fast thinking instincts but rather they are a product of being rational creatures. They rest on this idea that God has posited into our being the capacity to reasonably infer such logical inferences. This is the small still voice that I see so many people attempting to suppress.
In the words of Malcolm Muggeridge “Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct”
May 31st, 2015 at 1:43 am
The reason behind me using the Term Heristic and Analytic, vs Fast and slow, is becuase while I think it’s techincally true the heristics are much faster, not all heuristics are all that fast, or at least the conclusions drawn by them can take years to form as evidence trickles in to the heuristic.
Though I reject the notion that humans are rational creatures, we can be rational, but this is not our, I’ll call it, usual state. Typically we make quick unintentionally careless judgements, which generally work out to be correct, because the heuristic we use are effective, but being right is not the same thing as being rational, and our natural inclination towards and dependance on heuristics leads us into superstition, mob antics, gambling and the like.
We can be rational, but it’s a skill strived and fought for, not naturally present. I’m quite confident on this just due to the preponderance of evidence for humans not behaving rationally, even highly rational people.
I do not think that small voice is rational, I think it can be useful, and I will listen and heed it’s advice at times (most often when it tells me I’m in danger). I don’t reckon it’s god, but I do think is a product of our evolution.
Now I’d like to share a quote with you it’s in a hilariously good read I finished this morning by Michael F. Patton and Kevin Cannon.
“In the beginning we had all the answers to life’s questions.
Or, rather we had one answer that fit every question:
‘God did it.'”
May 31st, 2015 at 2:21 am
I don’t think anyone would go as far to assert that humans are always going to act rationally, this was not the point . I concede that the state of being rational is a perishable quality, though I think its a bit of stretch to say that the preponderance of evidence would lead us to the conclusion that we are illogical creatures. I think for the most part logic seems to be a pretty inherent faculty.
May 31st, 2015 at 2:36 am
Now I think we are getting a little snagged by categorization, so I’ll elaborate on my thinking more.
I don’t consider heuristics rational thinking, you can rationally decide to use a heuristic but I don’t think heuristics are technically rational. Though I could be wrong on that one, in which case feel free to disagree and make a case.
Do to the above view I’d classify humans as irrational, although I do think we do pretty well all things considered.
May 31st, 2015 at 5:55 pm
Let’s say for a minute we are irrational by nature, its a separate argument as to whether or not attributing creation to a creator is actually a logical conclusion. The fact that so many of us don’t actually infer such an explanation could prove your point that we are actually not rational beings, or like muddredgs comment it could just mean we have educated ourselves into embecility. I suppose to each their own
May 31st, 2015 at 6:27 pm
Well the different between rationality and irrationality isn’t the conclusions you come to by what means you come to those conclusions.
May 31st, 2015 at 1:19 am
I have thinking fast and slow behind me. I tend to discuss it in terms of heuristic or analytic (I said algorithmic before I meant analytic, as algorithms are a subclass).
Otherwise that is an interesting take now I’m not convinced of any universal principles we humans share except tribalism. Which I think is probably the case. Though from my experience in ethical thought the jury is still very much out on universal ethical principles, so I’m more then open to revising my stance.
May 30th, 2015 at 3:09 am
Interesting stuff, I’m not sure if I would personally categorize logic or reason with instincts though, I think they are rather two different animals in their own respects. Instincts are more impulsive where as logic is more methodical, at least in my opinion. I think logic comes not from out selfish survival instincts (which are great to have) but rather logic comes more from our knowledge of cause and effect, such that when we see complexity and complex creativity we know by through our uniform and repeated experiences that most likely an acting agent was involved.
May 18th, 2015 at 8:44 pm
In a related vein, I was really interested recently to read Rachel Held Evans’ book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” She’s a more liberal Christian who decided to try the literal “Biblical” line on how to live as a woman for a year. With mixed results; some things she was glad to give up when the year was over, some she appreciated more without keeping them, and some she wanted to incorporate into her life in an ongoing way.
I suspect that any attempt to live as a “Christian” (leaving aside the questions of which sort of Christian and what defines Christian living) for a year might yield similar results, because practices can be separated from the ideology which first gave rise to them and be reinterpreted and integrated into other lifestyles in ways which are helpful or beneficial.
But that’s about praxis and not about belief; unless, in your hypothetical year of Christian living you actually had an experience which was convincing, I wouldn’t expect it to create faith.
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May 18th, 2015 at 7:25 pm
I was raised an Evangelical Christian and later stopped believing in “God” altogether. As the Buddhists and Hindus tend to emphasise, it is all in the mind.
I detest organised religion and militant behaviour based on the “I know the truth” attitude. Atheist, religious people and everyone in between can behave in such a way.
You make a choice and follow through. If you want to belief in the flying spaghetti monster, decide and live a happy life. Everything comes down to the act of faith.
Let the Christians preach. Let the others preach. Decide for yourself…
May 18th, 2015 at 4:25 pm
I just want to let you know that I have read through many of your posts on and off for a few months and I just want to let you know that I very much appreciate your writing.
I blog occasionally about politics at politischism.wordpress.com and I would love it if you could check it out sometime! I have blogged about partisanship, drug testing for welfare recipients and the future of the Republican Party among other things. One of my stories even got published in my local newspaper. Thank you! 🙂
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May 18th, 2015 at 10:41 am
The problem for theists is that they can’t understand how we, atheists, actually CAN understand their viewpoint and how they might arrive at it, and at the same time see the flaws that they miss as well as the fallacies and opinions that they seem to take as fact.
May 28th, 2015 at 3:57 pm
I sincerely doubt that this is true for very many theists or even Christians. I’m going to be charitable and assume that you did not mean to be uncharitable by using the word “flaws” rather than “difficulties,” “challenges,” etc, or that you were referring to a very specific subset of Christian theists, since labeling what you see as problematic as a flaw presupposes that you are correct, about which you cannot possibly be certain. I’m guessing you know that to say you can be certain invokes a kind of faith that is really no better than the attitude we are discussing in certain Christians. But, back to the point, I think theists and even a large number of Christians certainly CAN and DO understand that atheists understand their viewpoint and how they arrive and yet still identify points on which they are simply not convinced and for which they do not find sufficient evidence. If a theist truly believes in faith, they have to recognize that it is, in the end, a choice. A choice BASED on evidence, yes, but a choice the correctness of which can be DEMONSTRATED by evidence. Only mathematical and logical proofs have the luxury of the latter.
May 29th, 2015 at 1:38 am
Flaws I said, and flaws I meant. Flawed logic. Flawed acceptance of opinion as fact.
And its not a case of finding evidence for atheism. We offer none. The onus is on the theist to provide credible evidence to support their claims, which has never EVER happened.
Also, if a theist arrives at a conclusion based on faith,then their choice is NOT based on evidence and it cannot be demonstrated, so it is flawed.
May 29th, 2015 at 12:58 pm
As far as I can tell, the same statements can be made about those who have the belief there are no gods…
Some claim they have evidence to support that belief, but tend to not provide it on request.
May 29th, 2015 at 1:45 pm
You are clearly unable to understand what atheism is. Also, as I have said (far too many times) before on various platforms. Atheism is NOT a belief. It is a LACK of belief. We offer no evidence, because we have no evidence, because we don’t make any claims that REQUIRE evidence.
Theists are the ones who make the claim, therefore the onus is on them to provide EVIDENCE.
May 29th, 2015 at 3:54 pm
Why are you so uncivil? For someone who claims not to have a belief about gods, you are certainly aggressive/hostile/rude toward anyone that simply tries to defend the possibility that a kind of theism isn’t necessarily unreasonable.
Rather than showing any inability to understand what atheism is, equippedcat simply demonstrated having an understanding of atheism that differs from yours.
Who cares what *you* have said however many times on however many platforms? When did you become the authority? You are commenting on a blog whose authors have gone to lengths to clarify and define their understanding of what the terms atheist, theist, gnostic, and agnostic mean. *Your* understanding appears to be in conflict with that understanding.
At a minimum, it has to be granted that there is controversy over precisely what “atheist” or “atheism” means. If you want us to understand that you identify as an atheist and what atheism means for you, great. Just state it succinctly, and we’ll know the position from which you are reasoning.
But… the American Atheists organization defines (rather poorly, I think) atheism as, “the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.” If you ask me, that is far closer to the definition of strict empiricism than atheism. The two are not incompatible, but they are also not identical. This definition rather avoids the whole issue. In any case, they go on to offer, “Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent, immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that humankind — finding their resources within themselves — can and must create their own destiny.” The context implies this an elaboration of their definition or, at least, consistent with their take on atheism. Notice the declaration of the absence of supernatural presence and/or interference. Sounds like a belief to me.
But who is to say that we should take the American Atheists view? Well, unfortunately, the Atheist Alliance International neither provides a definition nor conveniently located (read: easily found) links to other organizations who might provide one, and the first few pages of a Google search (at least in my browser–results are contextual these days) don’t give me any other viable options. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states, “‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.” Again, that sounds like a belief to me.
So, while for *you* atheism may be the absence of a belief, it is certainly not universally accepted, and I see no good reason for you to be an ass to someone who uses a different definition. It certainly isn’t representative of the principle of “mutual respect” touted on the atheist organization web sites I’ve seen.
May 29th, 2015 at 3:57 pm
Perhaps I know what atheism is better than you. Atheism is being without the belief in God or gods, and includes both those who BELIEVE there are no gods and those who don’t have ANY belief about gods. The first group does have a belief about God (that He does not exist), and as such, are exactly as responsible for providing support for their belief system as are theists.
The only ones who don’t have any onus to prove their God claims are those who have no claims about God. And this is but a SUBSET of atheists, sometimes labeled agnostics, or weak atheists, or agnostic atheists.
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May 29th, 2015 at 4:49 pm
*cough*bullshit*cough* Wordplay and nothing more. No substance. Nothing
May 29th, 2015 at 5:16 pm
Really? That is your response? No indication of any flaw in what I said?
Obvious indication that you have no response to what I said, and despite its obvious merits, can’t bear to hear it. So you return to the debating skills of your kindergarten days…
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May 29th, 2015 at 9:59 pm
Well if you look at my comment I disputed a claim Equipped cat made. There was substance, and I disagreed with it. You made a semantic claim and a claim about the burden of proof. So did EC.
I at the end of the day we only particularly care about quality of arguments on this blog, so why I can appreciate getting annoyed and not wanting to contend with peoples arguments. I’ll point out that simply calling semantics isn’t good enough here as you yourself made a semantic argument (and besides I will happily defend semantic arguments if they are in fact well thought out). You would probably have done better not to say anything at all in this case.
Just a friendly reminder
May 29th, 2015 at 9:49 pm
Well not quite, a positive belief requires more evidence then does a negative belief. Now if you claim you can prove no god exist your making a positive claim, but if you instead state the you see no compelling evidence that there is a god, it’s not your job to then look for and disprove every argument for a god/gods.
So a small difference, but an important one about the kinds of claims one can make.
The burden of evidence is higher on those making positive claims then those making negative claims. The guy claiming there is fairies has to provide the evidence when talking to the guy thinking that there isn’t. Though again if the guy claiming there a fairies is talking to a guy who says he can prove there are no fairies then yes they are both making positive claims.
May 29th, 2015 at 10:02 pm
Belief and claim are often related, but not the same thing.
Saying “no gods exist” is a claim, probably based on a belief, and should have support provided for that claim. The belief does not need support, because that is a personal thing, although it is wise to have SOME support for your beliefs.
Saying “I see no compelling evidence that there is a God”, is making a claim of fact about yourself, which does not require any support. Which is good, because it is usually impractical to do so. And it is not based on a belief, although it may have been influenced by a belief.
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May 29th, 2015 at 11:49 pm
Your right I should have said claim when I said belief. That was a slip on my part.
Typically when you say “I don’t believe in x” people don’t usually assume you mean “I know x to be false.” Generally they think you mean you personally don’t think there is any reason to think x is real.
And I think you should know at this point I do have reasons, and understand that some atheists don’t.
May 30th, 2015 at 11:29 am
I think most all atheists have reasons, perhaps some of the reasons are less reasonable than other reasons. Someone who has no reasons for a belief or a claim probably needs some help…
May 30th, 2015 at 9:47 am
“The burden of evidence is higher on those making positive claims then those making negative claims. The guy claiming there is fairies has to provide the evidence when talking to the guy thinking that there isn’t.”
That is unless the absence of those fairies has equal implications, such that if say there is no God then you are directly inferring the only other alternative, which is to say you believe the world came about by natural unguided processes. in which you case you have the burden of proof in explaining how the world came about by purely naturalistic events.
May 30th, 2015 at 4:10 pm
Implications of the claims someone make does not shift the burden of proof around. If someone makes a positive claim it’s their job to show it’s true. That burden does not belong to anyone else. Simple as that.
Also don’t be confusing atheism proper with different philosophical or scientific arguments. While atheist generally have argument for why they think no god exist. There is no atheism argument, but arguments for atheism.
May 30th, 2015 at 4:57 pm
Not shifting the burden of proof but sharing it. It is the atheist who postulate themselves (weak atheist/agnostic atheist) in order to shift the entire burden of proof onto the theist. Couldn’t i just similarly say that I’m a weak theist? That I only assert the lack of belief in a natural unguided process? Of course if i can just attempt to make my claim negative to throw off any burden of proof but then I’m just left with any unsubstantiated positive claim which seems to promote ignorance. In which case you should just refer to yourself as agnostic
May 30th, 2015 at 5:08 pm
Well your taking this past the issue of atheism proper. Your previous comment by my reading attempted to tie up the concept of being atheist with other separate if often related belief.
I’m not saying you should be an agnostic about everything, a philosophical skeptic. I’m saying you are confusing matters by trying to make the basic atheist claim entail more then it does.
May 30th, 2015 at 5:18 pm
Also “sharing” the burden of proof is just a “nice” way of saying shifting the burden.
The burden of proof remains in the hands of those making the claim. Period. Full stop. That goes for me, and for you. If I make the claim that you are wrong. It’s my job to show that, as I’ve accepted a burden of proof of my own.
If I say I don’t think your correct, I can share my internal mental state with you, but you can’t generally find yourself in a position when you can argue with what a person thinks. This is a much weaker claim, but it’s important to understand what the claim is. In this case the claim would be about my mental states in regard to what I think of your position, the previous example in the last paragraph is me claiming I can give evidence (either inductive or deductive) to show your claims are incorrect.
May 31st, 2015 at 1:08 am
I’m definitely not trying to insist that the burden of proof be entirely shifted, I would never assert that a theist has no burden of proof. Besides I’m more than comfortable with where the evidence points to in the first place, especially with advances in the field of cosmology, molecular biology and even archaeology. I’m not saying that there won’t be competing interpretations of the evidence, but I think the theist is more than capable of making a strong argument for his or her case
Robert Jastrow, one of the leading NASA scientist said the following in regards to Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe
“This is an exceeding strange development unexpected by all but the theologians who have accepted the word of the Bible. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conqueror the highest peak, as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been siting there for centuries.”
As far a making negative claims, I think it’s stunts intellectual conversation when someone refuses to establish their own affirmative claim while just attempting to make negative claims about other peoples beliefs. Not saying that your necessarily wrong for doing it, I’m just saying that it seems like your trying to duck the spotlight so that way you don’t have to carry any of the onus for substantiating a convincing argument. it can be a very evasive tactic at times.
May 29th, 2015 at 1:17 pm
Let me take these one at a time. First let clarify one point of apparent disagreement that is based on a typo on my part. I wrote, “A choice BASED on evidence, yes, but a choice the correctness of which can be DEMONSTRATED by evidence.” I think context (the clause before and the sentence after) should have made it clear, but I intended to type “the correctness of which *cannot* be DEMONSTRATED by evidence.” As the following sentence, very little in this world *can* be. You seem to be rather antagonistic toward a point I take to be mostly in agreement with your general position. My point was that a theist *may* be able to base a decision about faith on evidence, but cannot construct a *proof* for that position, and must recognize that the decision is, in the end, a choice to place faith in something.
So we agree that a theistic faith or a conclusion based on such cannot be demonstrated, or proved, by evidence. That does not entail that their reason or logic is flawed. This latter point simply does not follow from the former, for quite a number of reasons. First, and easiest, is that you assume it is a decision involving logic. The logic cannot be flawed if logic is not involved in the decision. I don’t say this to be cute, trite, evasive, or clever. Many of the decisions that humans make are, at bottom, not based on logic. Logic simply isn’t part, or at least not a meaningful part, of the equation. For the rest of our decisions, there are varying degrees to which logic is involved, varying degrees of the quality (and quantity) of evidence, varying perspectives about what counts as credible evidence (there is a whole literature on this in epistemology and in philosophy of science), and different logics applied. If a theist claims a faith-based decision or even an evidence-based decision is based on deductive logic, then, yes, I agree, the logic is flawed, flawed in the execution, the application, or in the understanding of what such deductive logic can do.
It should neither be surprising or disappointing if the theist’s decision is based on a non-deductive logic, like induction, abduction, etc. The vast majority of human beliefs are based on non-deductive logic and even varying degrees of faith. Our confidence in induction itself is ultimately an act of faith, though one can reasonably argue it is a faith that is grounded on stronger evidence than is religious faith (though this is itself an appeal to the principle of induction and thus circular, but… what are we gonna do?). Much of the “progress” of “knowledge” is based on a faith in testimony, even though we are often lied to or informed by persons who are ill-informed or deceived themselves. Most of the time however, our trust in testimony appears to be well placed–it serves us well, but few of us are very good about consistently checking those sources.
I had hoped to address more, but let me simply conclude with two quick statements (one of which you probably won’t like or agree with).
Ultimately, human beliefs (in anything) are an exercise in risk management, which unavoidable involves invoking values, and those values differ from person to person, culture to culture (I’m not advocating relativism, here; I just don’t have time to fully spell out the implications.).
You are at least 1/2 wrong about the onus. The onus is on anyone making a positive claim that someone else is to inclined to accept. (That’s a bit oversimplified, but…) Only the agnostic or indifferent (on any issue) are relatively free from the burden of providing evidence.
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May 29th, 2015 at 1:49 pm
“My point was that a theist *may* be able to base a decision about faith on evidence, but cannot construct a *proof* for that position, and must recognize that the decision is, in the end, a choice to place faith in something. ”
That is where my issue with your statements lies. There is NO credible evidence of any description to support the theists claim about the existence of God. None. At all.
To all intents and purposes in the context of theological debate evidence and proof are the same thing.
I suspect you are trying to use the mathematical ‘proof’ definition where it simply doesn’t apply.
May 29th, 2015 at 4:23 pm
I probably won’t do justice to the position in this comment, because I can’t really afford time I’ve already spent responding to you, let alone much additional time…
“I suspect you are trying to use the mathematical ‘proof’ definition where it simply doesn’t apply.”
You don’t have to *suspect* anything. Just read. I clearly state when I’m using that definition, why I think it’s the wrong sense to apply here, and what definitions of reason or “logic” might be acceptable, not only in the context of theological debate, but in most contexts. So IF, by “you are trying to use… where it simply doesn’t apply,” you mean that the logic denoted by what you call the mathematical definition isn’t effective or appropriate for such a debate, then you’re correct that it doesn’t apply, but wrong that I’m trying to use it in a way that doesn’t apply b/c that was the very point that I was making. If you mean that I am wrong to think considering arguments based on such logic is relevant to theological discussions, you’re just wrong. Both Kant and Anselm and Descartes and… (and some contemporary philosophers and theologians) took themselves to be providing what can be alternately referred to as a priori, “mathematical”, or deductive arguments for God’s existence, while still others have taken themselves to be using the same kind of logic to reject those arguments. If you mean that because our discussion takes place in a theological context, I’m wrong to associate words like “demonstrate” or “proof” with deductive (in the strict, axiomatic, a priori, and sometimes mathematical sense), you are again, wrong, first b/c I’ve already pointed out that the such concerns *are* relevant for theological discussions and second because the words “demonstrate” and “proof” have consistent, clear definitions across any “logical” discourse. It is part of the very basis for a distinction between deductive and inductive logic. Inductive arguments are not proofs or demonstrations, though some may contain proofs or demonstrations as part of the evidence in favor a particular argument. “Evidence” and “proof” are not identical in any domain of logical discourse, and it is sloppy to use the terms as if they are, particularly for someone so adamantly declaring that other persons’ “logic” is “flawed” or fallacious.
There, I’m done. I’ll be honest, if you comment again, I’ll probably read it, but I don’t think I’ll reply, especially if you don’t engage any more constructively, critically, or civilly than you have. You’re just sitting around taking potshots.
May 18th, 2015 at 4:58 am
I don’t think that one can change their beliefs like they change their clothes. However, the way I’ve always heard this argument is that we don’t believe b/c we don’t have a relationship with a deity. As such, if one doesn’t try to get this relationship by praying, etc, then they can’t believe. The whole idea is that if you just try over and over, one day you will believe. (God will one day reveal himself.) I think this is a highly problematic view for many reasons. Nevertheless, I thought I’d add some context.
May 18th, 2015 at 3:12 pm
I’ve heard this argument too, but we’ve actually been told to “just believe.” I think they’re two related but different arguments.
May 18th, 2015 at 3:37 am
For me, one either believes, or one doesn’t believe. For me this holds true from trusting one’s partner to a full acceptance of a God, and the religion that accompanys Him. I don’t feel congruent with the idea that one can make oneself believe ~ that’s only make believe.
May 17th, 2015 at 8:12 pm
Any Christians telling you to “just believe” show an alarming lack of understanding of their own faith. There absolutely should be an intellectual assent, though intellect won’t take you all the way to belief. But the leap that confronts you at the end of inquiry is not a matter of willing your way across the gap.
Before every Christian’s favorite verse–John 3:16–comes John 3:8: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Coming to faith is a convergence of the mind and the heart with the work of the Holy Spirit. Which of course is a lot of mumbo jumbo to the atheist, but important for the Christian to understand.
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May 17th, 2015 at 7:52 pm
Good post, Hessian, here’s something you may find interesting / have already come across: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnz0ql-Rgt4&list=PLA755CA6ACBD86B81. A mite confrontational, but lucid. Worked to simmer down one of my overly religious friend’s continual praise of his belief system…
May 17th, 2015 at 6:32 pm
I think this argument is attractive among Christians (as well as other theists) since they think certain beliefs warrant punishment or reward. They’re in a tricky situation if God is punishing people for beliefs they do not have much control over. It would be immoral for God to hold people accountable for things that are out of their control. So, they attempt to establish culpability by claiming we “choose belief.” Granted, belief cannot be switched at will (at least so easily). I cannot choose to believe the lights are on when they are off, that my shoes are purple when they are black, that 2+2=5, that a penguin sits in front of me when there is no penguin, etc. The only way “choosing a belief” becomes feasible is by means of a long road of self-deception. But there’s no guarantee that it will be successful.
May 17th, 2015 at 2:19 pm
If is unfortunate that anyone would say that. Perhaps it is because they believe and don’t recall that they had to go through some sort of process to come to the belief. Perhaps they believe that is what God wants and ignore that a person has to believe in Him before His desires can have any importance. It is both silly and non-productive.
A belief cannot be “forced”; or at least not without significant mental and/or physical stress being applied. Belief is something which a person is led to, based on one’s trust of the source of inputs about it, and whether it “resonates” with them.
May 17th, 2015 at 1:50 pm
I think “you have to believe it to understand it” is actually backwards. You have to understand what a claim actually says before you can have any position at all on whether or not it is true.
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May 17th, 2015 at 1:46 pm
It’s an interesting question. I don’t think you can ‘make’ yourself believe because I don’t think it works like that. However, there have been people who, having spent a significant amount of time in silent reflection, have come to the conclusion that there is ‘something’ there in the silence. Now, of course, one might come up with all sorts of other explanations for this kind of experience. However, the fact remains that some people who had been unable to accept the existence of a god or gods, changed their position as a result of this kind of experience. I’m not saying they were suddenly able to accept ‘The Bible’ or other Christian beliefs. Nor am I saying that they had an experience of divine love that was to pave the way for a ‘personal relationship with God’. I’m just saying that their perception of the universe changed in a significant way – in the same sort of way as you might suddenly notice a vapour trail.
May 17th, 2015 at 10:41 am
In other words, I don’t think you can make an atheist a Christian or vice versa unless the seeds of belief or disbelief are already in them. At some point, some critical mass may be reached and the switch flips.
May 17th, 2015 at 10:37 am
And being “faithful” to that thing in the same way one can be “faithful” to one’s spouse.
May 17th, 2015 at 10:36 am
As a PREscription, “you just have to believe” may be misguided, but as a DEscription, I think it’s probably pretty accurate, in the same way that someone might say of an anecdote that another person doesn’t laugh at “you had to be there.” I think belief and faith have less to do with knowing or “hoping” that any given proposition is true (or convincing other people of the same thing) than with acknowledging something that’s as real to you as your own existence but you can’t point to or hold in your hands.
May 17th, 2015 at 9:46 am
It does seem as though the “You just don’t understand” argument is being used often. The “just believe” statement seems to indicate “Don’t think, just feel.” I think that unfortunately is what many try to do. They try to follow their own feelings, and in so doing do not actually understand what true “belief in Christianity” is. It is the same way many use the term “faith” to mean “I don’t understand it but I believe it anyway.” This is horrific exegesis. Faith, as the Bible teaches, must be rooted in solid understanding. Faith and hope are what follows when a person is completely convinced. If my dad had a history of doing what he said he would do, and then tells me he is going to come home from work early and play ball with me all afternoon, then based on my understanding of my father, I am more inclined to but faith and hope in what he says actually coming to pass. This brings me to relationships, because Christianity cannot only be looked upon from the standpoint of clinical understanding. The Bible says that Satan believes in the facts surrounding who God is, but does not then put his faith, trust, hope in God. For the one who goes beyond facts to develop a relationship with the PERSON of God, more can be gleaned. For instance, I heard many things about my wife before I met her. I learned many things about her character. But when I met her and got to know her from the things that she says and the way she interacts with me I am able to develop a more enlightened understanding of who she is in what accounts to much more than quantifiable data. So if a Christian came to you and said “I get where you’re coming from, but when you know Him the way I have come to know Him personally, then you are able to see Him more clearly” then I think the concept might be accepted better even if it is not agreed with. You might say “I can’t know someone who isn’t physically present and communicates in the way humans do.” You are free to say that, of course. But I am also free to say that it is possible because of my own experience if nothing else. Anyway, all in all a good post, good thoughts, and I “hope” I’ve been able to shed light on this subject from a Christian perspective.
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May 17th, 2015 at 12:52 pm
could you tell me where the bible says that faith needs to be rooted in solid understanding? As a former Christian, I do not recall it saying this.
I’ve also known a lot of Christians who claim that they have a personal relationship with God. However, they disagree completely with what this god supposedly wants. Why is this? Considering this, do you understand why I might not believe any of Christians claims?
May 17th, 2015 at 1:18 pm
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Hebrews 11:1. As far as people saying they have a relationship but not wanting what God wants, it sounds to me like an issue of lip service but no true change or alignment to God’s authority.
May 17th, 2015 at 1:53 pm
How does hoping for things show that one has a solid understanding of something? You have said this “Faith, as the Bible teaches, must be rooted in solid understanding. Faith and hope are what follows when a person is completely convinced.” Someone may be convinced of something and have no understanding of it or evidence for it, witness the believers in every religion including your own. If one reads Hebrews 11:1, it says that faith is the evidence for these “things unseen”. n Another interpretation of the bible verse is “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.”
Faith is not understanding, faith is belief without evidence. In the context of Hessian’s post, Christians often tell atheists to just believe. This is what Hebrews says to do also, to believe in what we do not see and what we do not have actual evidence for. The rest of Hebrews 11 goes onto make this point, it was not by understanding that the characters of the OT did the things they did, it was because of faith/belief,. This verse is emblematic of this “3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” By faith, and not what seen (evidence) or understanding, did Paul et al accept that the universe was supposedly formed by this god. One of the reasons I am an atheists is that the claims of the bible are not supported by evidence or my understanding of physics; these claims are also often entirely precluded by the evidence of other events happening.
I may not have made myself clear. You have claimed that you have a personal relationship with God. You say this god wants one thing and I know Christians who claim it wants another thing. How do any of you know what God wants? Why do you disagree and why should I believe you and not them? If you say that it is how much it cleaves to the bible, I have heard the same claim from the Christians you are sure are not true Christians. I’ve done a bit of googling around and have found that many Christians insist that one can’t understand this god so one can only have faith/belief. Would you agree with this, why or why not?
May 21st, 2015 at 1:56 pm
Simply put, there IS a correct interpretation of what God says in the Bible. Just like any of us who write something have a specific meaning for what we say. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit, God Himself comes to live inside the human being who has trusted in Him for the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus on the Cross. That Holy Spirit guides us in the understanding of the truth. There are many who disagree about what the Bible teaches, but that does not negate there being a truth to seek from it and an understanding to be gained as to what God wants. He is the illuminating factor, whereas many seek to use their own illuminative qualities, of which they have none.
Secondly, those commended for their faith in that chapter are seeking something yet to come. They are commended for making the hard choice now for the better end later. They do that not on blind faith, but based on who they know God to be. In the next chapter the writer states that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. That means He has PRODUCED that faith and will see it through to the end result. Why do we know this? How is this possible? Because we know Him. I personally know and have experienced what He has done in my life, others lives, and from historical accounts in the Bible and other places.
As to your dismissal of the Bible as unscientific, I heartily disagree. I also disagree with your premise that the writer was saying “We believe God made the world even though it doesn’t seem to be made by a God. What he is stating is true of EVERY HUMAN BEING NOT PRESENT DURING CREATION. Because none of us were there, none of us could gather data. We do not currently see God creating worlds nor do we currently witness Big Bangs, therefore we ALL depend on faith in our beliefs and NOT SCIENCE to understand what happened. For the believer in God, we know His wisdom and might as so we easily accept that He created the world. Also note Romans 1:20 which says “For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made”
May 23rd, 2015 at 5:37 pm
I’ll be back to answer your post in a bit. I do ask you to show us why we should believe that *you* have the right answer on what your god “really mean”. Why should I believe you and you alone have the “correct interpretation”?
May 23rd, 2015 at 6:01 pm
I never said I did. God does.
May 24th, 2015 at 11:40 am
There is nothing to indicate that your god wrote any of the bible or that it even exists, just like every other god.
The bible teaches a lot of things, and again, no reason to think that what it tries to claim is true actually is true. This again points out that your faith is not knowing anything, it is belief without evidence.
Every different flavor of Christian claims that the “holy spirit” tells them what this god really meant. And again, we have no evidence that any of your claims are true at all. You have tried to claim that you have not claimed that you and only you have the “correct” way of understanding the bible. You say “There are many who disagree about what the Bible teaches, but that does not negate there being a truth to seek from it and an understanding to be gained as to what God wants.” Yep, there are many who disagree and many who claim that their version is the only right one, like you, all claiming that the “holy spirit” has told them “x” and anyone who believes “y” is wrong. That’s why there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian sects. That’s why Presbyterians don’t believe what Catholics believe, why universalist Christians don’t agree with literalist Christians, etc. Each sect of Christians claims “He is the illuminating factor, whereas many seek to use their own illuminative qualities, of which they have none.” Entirely sure that they are the ones who are right with their god, and everyone else is not “illuminative” at all.
You indulge in the assumption that there is a truth in the bible to be found. That has not be shown to be the case.
Those that are commended for their faith in Hebrews are indeed seeking something that they hope will come and hope is true. This again shows that your claim that that hoping for something is understanding is wrong. They are not making a hard choice “now” as you say, they are simply blindly accepting claims with no evidence. They are making Pascal’s Wager, hoping that they have the right god, hoping that what other humans have claimed is true, hoping that they worship this god correctly, with no evidence at all. This is the case for any theist who makes claims that they cannot support and why the exhortation by so many Christians to non-Christians to “just believe” is ridiculous to a non-believer, be they another theist or an agnostic/atheist. All Paul is saying is “just believe”. You claim that theists make their choice “based on who they know God to be”. The problem is that each believer claims to “know” an entirely different god. As we know with Christians, you folks can’t agree on what this god actually wants at all, because you all make contradictory claims.
There is no reason to believe that Jesus Christ existed, much less that this character is the producer of our faith. That is a interesting claim, though, since so many Christians claim that we have free will and that their god doesn’t produce our faith at all. Which version of Christianity should I believe? You claim that you personally know this god/Jesus. Why should I believe you when the faithful of another religion make the same claims and I know you don’t believe their claims. Again, lots of claims of knowing exactly what this god wants, and you all contradict each other with your claims of objective truth.
You mistake what is historical. The bible is not historical, no more than the myths of other religions are. There is no evidence for the essential events in the bible, just like there is no evidence of Rome being founded by two men who were raised by a wolf or Athens being named because of a contest between two gods. I am assuming you are trying to claim miracles as evidence. Since we have no evidence that miracles occur, they are not evidence, only stories. If you would like to site a miracle, we would need to have evidence supporting it. Do you have any? Other religions also claim miracles. Do you accept those stories to be as true as yours? Why or why not?
I don’t much care if you “heartily disagree.” All I care about is evidence. There is no evidence that your bible is a guide to how the world actually works. It gets basic facts wrong. It gives false information, and it does not reveal anything that science has revealed to humanity. Yep, you are quite correct that there were no humans around at creation since there was no magical creation as the bible claims there was. It’s always funny when a creationist tries to claim that no one can know if their myth isn’t true since there was no witnesses. If that is your best reason to accept something as true, then why not accept that the Big Bang happened because no one was around to see that either? It seems that all you have is special pleading for your baseless claims.
Nope, we don’t’ currently see your god creating worlds, doing any kind of miracle, healing amputees, making the blind see, feeding the hungry, etc. in fact, we see no gods doing this, despite the millions of believers. We see no Christians being able to do anything like the bible claims they would be able to do, no healing of physical ailments, no miracles at all.
We do have evidence that the Big Bang happened, skinbark, so your claim that everyone has to depend on faith as you do is simply a lie, evidently based on willful ignorance. It always bemuses me that Christians like yourself have to retreat to the “you aren’t any better than us” which is faint praise for your claims. We have plenty of predictions and observations that support the Big Bang’s occurrence; the background radiation that was predicted and then found is one big bit of evidence. The science that you benefit from and depend upon everyday is the same science that shows your myths to be incorrect. There is no evidence that your god or any made the world. We do have evidence that the bible’s story is wrong.
I had wondered when you’d repeat Romans 1:20. Funny how all religions make the claim that their god and only their god can be seen in nature. Please do tell me how I can figure out which of you is telling the truth. Tell me know you know it was your god and not another. You weren’t there were you? How the claim in Romans 1 anything but just more of the same “just believe” nonsense?
May 24th, 2015 at 12:46 pm
Its extremely clear that you aren’t interested in me answering any of the questions you’ve asked me. Your tone is condescending and your claims are absolute, such as NOTHING in the Bible is substantiated historically or there is NO reason to believe Jesus existed. That’s simply ridiculous to speak with such absolutist terms when what you are trying to argue against is the absolutism of religious claims. The Hittites, for example, were thought to be a made up people by an old testament author until archeologists discovered that they did indeed exist, backing up the historical accuracy of the biblical claim. As far as the big bang, the astronomically astounding odds against such an event are a huge hurdle for me. Also the lack of physical evidence regarding the introduction of any new, beneficial genetic information to an organism. Speciation as far as it has been observed, deals only with the specialization and narrowing of a gene pool. If you want to look at simple scientific observations, look at the gradual diminishment of the sun under current conditions. If you extrapolate that data backward billions of years you have a sun so large and hot that the earth would have been burned up. But it is not my intention to spend time giving you evidence of any kind if you are not positioned to accept it. I enjoy thoughtful dialogue with respect, not rants back and forth leading nowhere.
May 24th, 2015 at 1:07 pm
1. Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.
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May 24th, 2015 at 2:18 pm
Lol well at least he or she found purpose in life.
May 24th, 2015 at 3:17 pm
Are you trying to create an excuse so you do not have to answer my questions? I am very interested in you answering the questions I ‘ve asked you, so your claims that I am not are wrong and entirely untrue. It appears that you are trying to bear false witness against me by making false claims about my intent.
How is my tone “condescending”? I would ask you to point out to me where this is occurring. If you cannot, that would imply that your claims are again untrue.
I have not said that there is nothing in the bible that is historical. I have said that none of the essential events in the bible have any evidence for them and there is no reason to accept the claim that they actually happened. Your myths have some bits of facts in them, that they mention real people and places. However, if we were to take that as evidence of the bible’s truthfulness, we would also have to accept that the Spiderman comic books and the Avengers movies are also as true, as would we have to accept that the Egyptian myths and Greek/Roman myths are also as true as yours. If you agree with this, why would you doubt one and not the other? So your claims of “absolutism” are again a manufactured excuse on your part.
The Hittites are indeed found to be real. We also have found that there is likely a real city of Troy. Does this mean that Athena, Zeus and Poseidon are as real as you claim your god to be? Per your own argument, it does. If you would like to claim that it doesn’t, please do so.
Please do tell me how you calculated the “astronomical odds” against the Big Bang. Why do you claim that there are huge odds when we know that it did happen, a chance of 1 in 1? I would also like to see the evidence that you have that you god created the universe and not another and not the Big Bang.
It seems you are very uninformed about genetics and evolution also. There is plenty of physical evidence of beneficial mutation in organisms, and the term “beneficial” betrays your ignorance. Mutations can be beneficial or harmful and that depends on the environment the organism is in, exactly what evolutionary theory predicts. For example, the sickle cell mutation is beneficial in protecting the bearer from the worst of malaria. It is harmful in that it can kill the subject from its own effects later in life. You attempt to pass along misinformation as fact. I do enjoy watching creationists constantly alter their claims when the facts show that they have lied in the past. Now I get to see you acknowledge speciation when in the past creationists have claimed that it has never occurred. It’s very funny to watch you try to claim that speciation shouldn’t be about specialization and a narrowing of the gene pool. What do you think speciation is, SB? What do you think it should be?
It’s even funnier to watch you claim that “gradual diminishment of the sun under current conditions.” And that somehow that this baseless claim somehow shows that the sun was something vastly different in the past. How has the sun “diminished”? It won’t much change for the next 5 billion years and hasn’t changed much in the 5 billion years or so since it ignited. Provide evidence for your claims, SB. Surely you have that, don’t you? If you can’t it makes it appear that you likely are only intentionally lying, hoping no one will call you on your false claims. Where is this “data” that I can extrapolate back to invent a sun that is larger and hotter? I will accept the evidence, if you have it. Do you? Earn my respect and present it. If you cannot, there is no reason to respect you at all. I doubt you would accept that you should respect the belief that a Muslim has that Jesus was not the messiah and was simply another prophet just because they said you should. If you would not, then insisting that I should is nothing but a hypocritical statement on your part.
May 24th, 2015 at 3:20 pm
please do give the reasons I should believe that Jesus Christ, son of God, existed. I can accept that there may have been a itinerant rabbi who existed who may have thought he was the messiah and who died. This is not the character that Christians worship.
May 17th, 2015 at 7:23 am
Excellent post. I hope that a Christian or two might try to answer your questions.
Having been a Christian, I think I did and do understand Christianity just like a Christian does. Coming to the conclusion of atheism doesn’t change that. Understanding doesn’t mean one has to agree. Many Christians don’t seem to grasp that.
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May 17th, 2015 at 3:40 am
Interesting problem. Belief isn’t something we choose. It’s whether we think a proposition is true or not. Of course you could take actions and read books that could affect your beliefs, but you can’t directly choose what you believe in.
There’s also a difference between what we say we believe and what we actually believe. You can choose to say whatever you want, but to believe is another matter.
Ultimately I wonder how much all these matters of belief actually matter. How we act is much more important.
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