Archive for August, 2010

Response to a Christian Comment

While I was away on my trip, a Christian named Josh posted a comment on my About page, and since it contained a mish-mash of things I commonly hear from Christians I thought I would make a post out of responding to it.

Hey,
Just thought I’d share something. I am a christian and have recently been watching some clips of “Jesus Camp” “Religulous” and some of Dawkins videos (thats how I stumbled onto your site lol). I try to understand the Atheist point of view but can’t quite get my head around it.

I’m not a fan of your decision to capitalize the word “atheist”, because atheism isn’t the name of a belief system or religion. Atheists are without theism, that is without a belief in any god or gods. That’s the point of view that all atheists have in common, and what they believe apart from that has nothing to do with atheism.

A lot of it is just totally bashing Christianity or any other organized religion, but mainly Christianity.

What you may see as bashing, to an atheist may just look like fair criticism. Many atheists, such as myself, feel that religion shouldn’t be immune to criticism, skepticism and doubt, and choose to openly criticize it. You may feel that Christianity gets the worst of it, and that’s probably because you’re a Christian so you notice more, or because you live in an area where Christianity is common, so it’s naturally what people who criticize religion will talk about. Personally when I talk about religion on my blog it’s generally going to be Christianity because I was a Christian for most of my life, so that’s where my experience with religion lies.

I also watched a clip of Ben Steins video “Expelled” in which he interviews Dawkins and he comes up with a very complicated example of how live could have started. He believes that it is very much possible that a being of higher intelligence could have created life on earth.

Watch that clip again. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Expelled, but if I remember correctly Stein was leading Dawkins into that answer by asking if it’s possible for an intelligent life form to have created life on earth. Dawkins is not closed-minded to the idea that life was placed on Earth by an intelligence, so he entertained the idea be answering that maybe we were placed here by an intelligence, without departing from the reality that there is no scientific evidence of any supernatural being. Ben Stein knew what he would get when he asked that question, and he knew that he could make Dawkins look crazy by telling people that he believes we were placed here by aliens. I believe it should be clear to anyone who sees that clip that Dawkins was being misrepresented.

I wouldn’t take Expelled as an authority on anything. The filmmakers were completely dishonest during the making of Expelled. They lied to the atheists and scientists they interviewed about the topic of the film, the name of it, and they even went as far as making up a production company and website to trick people into getting on board. Stein’s interview style was also designed to try to bring out the worst in the scientists being interviewed. If you’re interested, this website talks about the making of Expelled and it responds to the dishonesty and lies that run rampant in the so-called documentary.

So essentially he is willing to believe in a higher intelligence, but it CANNOT be God.

Saying Dawkins CANNOT believe in God is dishonest. He always makes it clear that he doesn’t completely discount the possibility of a God. Like me, he doesn’t say with absolute certainty that there is no God. I believe that it’s more likely that we were seeded on Earth by aliens than popped into existence by a god. The reason for this is that we have no scientific evidence of anything supernatural or god-like, but we do have evidence of intelligent beings evolving from simple life (ourselves), and scientists are getting close to creating life from scratch in the lab, and we’ve done some modest space travel. Maybe we’re only a couple hundred years off of seeding life on other planets ourselves, why couldn’t that be how we got here? Of course I don’t believe that we were put here by aliens for the same reason I don’t believe we were put here a god – there’s no evidence for either. Right now I’m satisfied with saying “who knows how we got here, I hope science can eventually give us the answer.” I’m sure that’s what Dawkins would say as well, although I’m sure he would put it more eloquently.

This is looking at a Scientific and logical perspective:

The atheist generally claims that belief in a God without proof is essentially silliness. Additionally, an atheist generally accepts modern science and attempts to use it as means to prove or disprove the existence of God.

I would rephrase this to say: “atheists generally claim that belief in a god without evidence is intellectually lazy. Additionally, an atheist generally accepts modern science and uses it as a tool for examining claims and evidence made for the existence of a god.”

But the problem comes in here for me: Science can only “prove” something if it is able to be tested. The possibility that God exists cannot be tested (because it is a spiritual existence not necessarily a physical one) and therefore cannot be proven to be non-existent. So if science cannot prove or disprove God (however, it can and does give evidence for both sides of the argument) then there is some “belief” involved in the unbelieving atheist. You see, the common atheist says God doesn’t exist because it can’t be proven, but therein lies the problem in their position: God cannot be disproven either. Therefore there is some type of belief/faith involved in being an atheist. They don’t have absolute proof they just think they do.

Let me rephrase this too, and hopefully you can see why I think that what you just said is absurd:

But the problem comes in here for me: Science can only “prove” something if it is able to be tested. The possibility that Leprechauns exists cannot be tested (because it is a magical existence not always a physical one) and therefore cannot be proven to be non-existent. So if science cannot prove or disprove Leprechauns (however, it can and does give evidence for both sides of the argument) then there is some “belief” involved in the unbelieving aleprechaunist. You see, the common aleprechaunist says Leprechuans don’t exist because they can’t be proven, but therein lies the problem in their position: Leprechauns cannot be disproven either. Therefore there is some type of belief/faith involved in being an aleprechaunist. They don’t have absolute proof they just think they do.

Your phrasing here indicates a few things:

1) You believe that not being able to prove that something doesn’t exist is a good argument for its existence. Hint: it’s not.

2) You believe that atheists claim to have proof that there is no god. Not true. Like most atheists I talk to, I know that it’s impossible to disprove something, so my non-belief comes from the fact that I’ve never seen any evidence for the existence of any god. I’ll keep on not believing until I see evidence, and there’s no faith needed there.

3) You said that science gives evidence for both sides of the argument, so this indicates that you have scientific evidence for the existence of a god (even though you said God can’t be tested). How does this make sense? And what scientific evidence do you have?

Now I can tell you that God can be proven as real. If you have never experienced God, then you would never know how real He is. Atheists would logically explain that it is impossible to experience God because He isn’t real. How can you prove that? The truth of the matter is, you can’t if you don’t have a relationship with Him to really know Him. He isn’t like a boss that stays up in heaven and doesn’t like coming out of His office. He loves to be in fellowship with His children. Those who think of Him as that kind of God (the kind that just sits in heaven not showing Himself) will never be able to find out of God is real, its simply not possible.

I am being very honest right now in saying that I know that I know that I know God is real, because of the relationship that I’v developed with Him. And people have no clue the power of prayer. Not prayer for selfish reasons or to fulfill our own goals, but the kind that believes in God’s power and is obedient, humble, and patient for God’s perfect timing.
(Jeremiah 29:11-14)

So you’re saying that the only way to believe in God is if you have a personal relationship with God, but how can I get this personal relationship with God until he shows himself to me? Why can you have a relationship with God but I can’t? If God has proven himself to you then he should prove himself to everybody. Why can you have a personal relationship with him but I’m supposed to just believe you that God’s real? Shouldn’t God know that I require scientific evidence to believe in him? So why doesn’t he provide some? Does God have such petty disregard for souls that aren’t satisfied with taking things on faith?

And what of the people who say they have a personal relationship with a different god or with a ghost or an alien? Why should I believe your personal experience over theirs? Should I believe everyone who tells me with sincerity that they have a personal relationship with their god? How many gods are there??

Do you see why this personal relationship thing is unconvincing? Not to mention I was a devout Christian for most of my life, and I never once heard God speaking to me or felt a presence. How do you define a personal relationship?

I mean I have seen God do amazing things in my life and in the people around me. I have seen 8 people healed of cancer in the same year, without Chemotherapy (mind you there is no cure for cancer). All these people believed in the power of God, and they waited patiently and humbly and were healed.

That’s fantastic that they were healed of their cancer but there are other ways besides Chemotherapy that doctors use to fight cancer. You haven’t given me any specifics about these 8 people but I sure hope their health is being monitored by doctors. I believe that the most sinister result of belief in prayer is that some people rely on it in favour of medical treatment. There are stories in the news all the time about people dying of easily treatable diseases because they (or their parents) believed that prayer would save them. If you care for these 8 people you’ll advise them to visit the doctor for regular checkups. Even if you believe that God is healing these people, at least be open to the possibility that God heals through doctors and medical treatments.

I could share many more miracles (lost things coming back, running on an empty gas tank for 20 miles, many many more).

Finding something you lost is a miracle? Running on an empty gas tank? I’ve done that – you know the needle says empty well before the tank is actually empty right? Your standards for miracles are really low.

It’s amazing how those who don’t have a relationship with God never experience such things.

I don’t have a relationship with God and guess what? I find things I’ve lost all the time! I have a story that when I was a Christian I considered a miracle: When I was in university once I went to campus for a final exam for one of my classes 8 hours early so that I would have time to study. I wanted to make sure I had the location right for my exam, so I checked the schedule only to find out that my exam would be starting in 15 minutes! I thought God made me check the schedule so that I wouldn’t miss my exam. Now I realize that it was pure dumb luck. You know what would have been a miracle? If God had stopped time so that I’d have an extra 8 hours to study…maybe that way I wouldn’t have gotten a C on that exam…

Many would argue why God would do that, but its not God at all. It was sin that destroyed man’s relationship with God. (Genesis 3:23-24)

It wasn’t my sin, it was Eve’s. Your petty God is holding a grudge against everyone alive today for something someone did thousands of years ago, and you worship this guy?

And when I say sin it sounds sooo cliche, but God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) so that we could be in constant fellowship with Him. But if our spirit is not righteous and holy like He is, then we simply cannot fellowship with Him. Its like the polar sides of a magnet, they simply cannot attract its impossible.

I see nothing righteous about the God depicted in the Bible.

When it all comes to an end, every person on earth must die. We are NEVER guaranteed tomorrow. And when each person dies, at that moment, they will know the truth of this issue of if God is real or not. The scary part is if someone is unprepared when they finally face the truth. Because at that moment you cannot go back and try to relive your life correctly.

I’m not worried.

Many say why live a Christian life because its so hard. Not really, not when you realize how much God loved us to sacrifice Himself to restore us to the place that he created us.

I lived the Christian life and it wasn’t hard. Now I try my best to live the skeptical life and that’s hard, but, I feel, way more fulfilling. Trying to hold your beliefs up to high standards of evidence and critical thinking is a challenge, but it is rewarding and I learn and grow more every day. As a Christian I felt that I had the answer to life and the afterlife, and I could look to the Bible for easy answers to everything. The faith I had suppressed my curiosity and it didn’t allow me to freely learn and explore ideas like I do now.

I really don’t know why, but I felt like sharing this with you.

Thank you for sharing. I know some of what I said may have felt harsh and like I was bashing Christianity, but I hope you are able to read my thoughts without taking them personally, and I hope you’re able to consider some of the questions and criticisms I’ve put forward. I think it’s fantastic that you’re looking into atheism and thinking about questions of evidence and faith. I think it’s important to examine your tightly held beliefs, to make sure that you’ve got good reason for holding them. When I started looking honestly at what I believed and why I found that I no longer believed. For some people this type of inquiry may lead to strengthened faith. Either way, I applaud anyone’s willingness to test their faith.

I’m Back!

It’s been awhile since I posted and that’s because I’ve been in Europe, see?:

Europe

At the Royal Observatory in Greenwich

We went to England where we mostly stayed in London (we also visited Bath, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle), France where we stayed in Lille for two days while we visited WWI sites in France and Belgium, and then we spent a day in Paris (which was plenty), and then we went to Dresden, Germany to visit family.

It was a jam-packed trip so there was no time for blogging, but I tried to keep up on the news and there’s lots I’d like to blog about when I get the chance. I also got some comments and email feedback, so I’ll try to get around to responding to those. Of course, I’m moving into our new house in just over a week so I won’t have a lot of time to spend here but I’ll do my best!

Before I go I just want to quickly pass along something that reader Carlos sent me while I was away, I think all religions should teach this:

Kalama Sutta

Do not believe anything (simply)
because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they
have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe in anything (simply) because it is
spoken and rumoured by many.
Do not believe in anything (simply) because
it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority
of your teachers and elders.
But after observation and analysis,
when you find anything that agrees with reason
and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all
then accept it and live up to it.

Buddha
(Anguttara Nikaya, Vol 1, 188 – 193 P.T.S. Ed.)

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