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.

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24 Responses to “Response to a Christian Comment”


  1. 1 kevinbbg August 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Wow! That was a Herculean effort on your part, I need a nap just from reading it! Good job, not really much I can add.

    I’ve long since given up trying to talk to Christians, it’s like beating your head against a wall, but good luck to you.

    In ten years of a LOT of arguments on the internet I did turn ONE person. He couldn’t totally give up god and settled at being a deist, but he also changed his politics from right wing to liberal.

  2. 2 sabepashubbo August 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Interesting post. As a theist I accept your critique as pretty much limited to this gentleman who decided to post previously, and I don’t think you were particularly harsh at all.

    That said, you admitted that you hadn’t found evidence for God’s existence, and that is why you are an atheist. I would be willing to offer up my case for the existence of God if you are willing to listen. I have no problem doing this because, as I hear so often, “the burden of proof is on the one making the claim.” However, what is not so often cited is that “the burden of objectivity is on the respondent.” So if you are willing to be objective, and that means asking questions instead of offering rebuttals, I would be happy to make a case for God’s existence. We can do this hear or offline; whichever you prefer.

    Best regards, and thanks for sharing your perspective. 🙂

  3. 3 Ani Sharmin August 25, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    That’s a great response!

  4. 4 Chris August 26, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Nice to see you had a pleasant trip Lindsay.

    I wonder if the “fruitless” back-and-forth arguments that occur between many atheists & Christians may be due to the fact that both fail to address the foundations of each “sides” beliefs.

    Atheists generally fail to understand Christian beliefs (not surprising given the number of Christians who fail to understand Christian beliefs also…), while the beliefs of atheists are typically not even seen by most Christians – again not surprising given the steadfast denials of most atheists to have any “beliefs” that matter to the issue of atheism. Or as you put it:

    “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.”

    That’s not entirely true – The atheist doesn’t simply accept modern science (which is something most people do), but insists on the use of it to “prove” the existence of God.

    Which ties in directly to the claim that atheists have no beliefs with any bearing on atheism.

    The truth is that the atheist insistence on the use of science to “prove” anything/everything is based on belief in the concept of naturalism – the doctrine that natural, material particles are all that exist, that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena, and denies that any event or object has (or can have) any supernatural origin or significance. This idea is an assumed belief that flies in the face of both logic & observable reality.

    Science by definition is “concerned with the physical world and its phenomena“, but it is completely incapable of addressing anything that is non-material.

    That’s why the cute jabs & poor analogies about “flying spaghetti monsters” or “unicorns” or “leprechauns” all fail on a fundamental level. They are all proposed material creatures – God isn’t. Since God is not a material object, science is incapable of providing the demanded “evidence”, either for or against the existence of God or any other non-material object or property.

    As such, science is simply the wrong tool to try to use, in the same way that a bathroom scale is the wrong tool to try to use to provide evidence for the existence of the colors red, blue or yellow.

    As such, the insistence on science is either ignorant, intellectually lazy, or intellectually dishonest. However, since the insistence on the use of science is based on the assumption of the “truth” of naturalism, and this assumption is most likely not even consciously realized, I suspect ignorance is more of a cause than either intellectual laziness or dishonesty.

    Take care…

  5. 5 kevinbbg August 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Chris – you are totally and completely wrong. We stand with science because it is the only thing that has shown any degree of accuracy in obtaining knowledge about the world around us. If something shows up that does a better job then we would use it but as of now science is all there is.

    “I look at it this way. If science disappeared from human memory, we would soon be living in caves again. If theology disappeared from human memory, no one would notice. Theology is a completely and utterly useless pursuit. It is self-indulgence of the first order. It grieves me that public money is spent on theological colleges while real education struggles to gain the funds it needs to maintain itself.”
    Terry Sanderson

  6. 6 Chris August 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

    That unquestioning belief in the assumption of naturalism which your post displays so well is my point.

    The assumption of naturalism boils down to the belief that only natural material objects exist because science doesn’t provide evidence of anything else. My example of the bathroom scale was intended to show how absurd it is to assume that since a particular tool (like a bathroom scale) can provide only evidence of weight, and not light, then only weight must exist.

    By definition, science is only capable of looking atthe world around us” as you state.

    I am not anti-science, simply pointing out that it is capable only of observing material objects, so it is rationally impossible to insist on it’s use as a tool to observe non-material realities.

    Additionally, I have to remain a bit skeptical of the accuracy claim of science. The argument that science is “self-correcting” typically fails to note that such corrections are so common that it is a wonder that people place such faith in the latest scientific pronouncement. The fact that it is self-correcting is true, but for it to be possible, it requires incorrect conclusions.

    I admit also being skeptical of the constant whining of “real education” not getting enough money. Such “real education” receives ever increasing sums, via people being forced to “contribute”, despite the fact that they perform more poorly every year. An ever increasing pool of excuses is sought, including blaming private schools (like private universities & theological colleges), which are funded completely by private & voluntary charity by folks who feel such colleges are doing a better job.

    Again, take care…

  7. 7 EnlightningLinZ August 30, 2010 at 11:54 am

    I won’t have a chance to reply to the comments that have been posted here right now, I just wanted to stop by and say that I’m reading them and I hope to reply soon. It’s just that I’m in the middle of a move and will likely be away from the internet for at least two days. Apologies!

  8. 8 Global Villager August 31, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Lin-Z…best…post….ever.

    Chris…that was an interesting angle to take (re: bathroom scale) in the science vs. theology debate. I am impressed and am sure this helps theists rationalize their beliefs with modern science.

    Unfortunately it is another example of a theist having to make excuses for a clearly flawed doctrine. It must be tiring. Theists always have to delve into the world of obscure metaphors, similes, allegory, symbolism, etc to make belief in a God seem plausible at all. Occam’s razor anyone?

    Science is capable of looking at the world around us….yes, that is all there is my friend. I am interested in hearing about what you consider to be supernatural objects or events that you have deemed both observable and logical? Observable to who? Sight (and the other senses for that matter) is not infallible and our faculties can deceive us. Our mind is a powerful thing and capable of amazing fabrication. The scientific method eliminates these variables through rigorous testing and scrutiny.

    I think you also must consider the source of theology. As a history teacher I can tell you that the bible is a very very weak source because it was written well after the events it depicts (based on oral traditions), contains many contradictions, and very little corroborates with anything we have on the historical record. It is undeniable that much of what has been included in the bible (whether through selection or interpretation) was selected by regular, fallible people doing their best to make sense of a confusing story (ex. the nature of the trinity). Other times, things were twisted to legitimize the rule of a despot (ex. divine right of kings).

    ETC ETC – I mean, the presence of so many religions claiming validity should be enough for someone to question the whole business. Religion os obsolete and no longer offers a viable explanation for phenomenon that we can now begin to grasp through science and mathematics (ex. see “probability” to explain your miracles.)

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  9. 9 sabepashubbo August 31, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Not trying to be rude, but I can’t see how any non-theist can justify using Occam’s razor to prove his/her point. If we’re looking at how we got here, consider the two positions:

    Theism – God created us in His image with precise design and for a specific purpose.

    Naturalism – We came about from nothing (well, almost nothing, but not nothing, because we have no good grounds for “nothing” at this point) through a gradual series of complex mutations spanning hundreds of millions of years based on both social/cultural adaptation and the change of natural processes to accommodate our very specific living conditions. This all happened by random chance through a probability millions of times smaller than the probability of winning the lottery, and it means we are not here for a purpose at all but should try to make the best of it before we return to the ground from which we came.

    Which of the two positions has the fewest assumptions? Occam’s razor, anyone?

  10. 10 Chris August 31, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Wow, another irrational post explicitly highlighting the points I made:

    – Belief in the assumed truth of naturalism – Check
    (“Science is capable of looking at the world around us….yes, that is all there is my friend“)
    – Failure to understand the foundations of Christian belief – Check

    Well, and a bunch of attempts to change the subject rather than show how my assertion is incorrect.

    Again, my point is that Atheism requires belief in naturalism, which by definition is “a theory denying that any event or object has a supernatural significance; specifically: the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena.”
    [My emphasis added]

    Other than the multiple arguments based on a failure to understand my belief, & having nothing whatsoever to do with refuting my assertion, the only attempt to change the subject that stands out is the attempt to imply that I am rationalizing my belief, or making excuses for it.

    However, other than a statement of fact that God is not a material object, I didn’t mention belief in God at all.

    I did state that atheists have beliefs which are not only connected with, but is functionally central to, their “non-belief in deity”.

    So I’m curious,

    1) How exactly is pointing out an atheist belief a rationalization of my beliefs with modern science? And,

    2) How exactly is pointing out an atheist belief an excuse for belief that God exists? Or for that matter, belief in the existence of anything non-material, like free will, love, or good & evil?

    Take care…

  11. 11 kevinbbg August 31, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    You completely misunderstood what I said. ALL of your statements about atheist’s beliefs were completely wrong. I don’t believe in “naturalism” I don’t even know what that is.

    Science has definitive proof of it’s accuracy. If you don’t think that is true then try not using the products of science for a day. Hint-You can’t even get away to nature without using the products of science.

    Science works, period. There is nothing assumed, nothing taken on faith, it is proven with a track record that goes back centuries. Nothing else does when it come to finding out about the world.

    And I understand Christian beliefs perfectly, that’s why I reject them as absurd and ridiculous. They don’t even have an internal consistency. You have a god of luve who is going to torturer me for eternity for having lived the best I can. Yeah, love hahahahah.

    I dare you to prove one thing using any religion at all. Christianity couldn’t even figure out that the world was round or that the Earth moved around the sun or that the stars in the sky are suns a long way off. They were wrong about even the most basic stuff so I’m supposed to believe a bunch of ignorant goat-herders from 2,000 years ago?

  12. 12 Chris September 1, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Of course I understood what you said kevin.

    You don’t have to understand something to believe in it. The fact that you don’t know what naturalism is doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in it – it just means that you’re willing to unquestioningly subscribe to assumptions & beliefs that are posited by others, whether you understand them or not, as long as they do not conflict with your predetermined conclusions.

    Science, by definition, is only “… concerned with the physical world and its phenomena“.

    As such, I would agree with your repeated statements that science is good for obtaining knowledge about “the world around us”, as long as you are in agreement with the definition of science.

    If by “the world around us”, you mean everything, then you hold to the belief in naturalism, which claims that “scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena“.

    Science is only concerned with the physical, the material; while naturalism claims that science is concerned with everything.

    Yes, I know. The “I don’t believe because I haven’t seen ‘evidence'” claim.

    The problem with this is that it irrationally & unreasonably insists on the use of a lens that is incapable of seeing the subject.

    It is irrational to claim that molecules do not exist because you can’t see them through your binoculars. It is also irrational to claim that colors do not exist because you can’t measure them with your scale.

    In the same way, it is irrational to claim that non-material objects (like God, love, or good & evil) do not exist because science is incapable of examining them.

    Again, science, by definition, cannot examine the existence or properties of the non-material.

    As such, one cannot maintain any semblance of reason (or scientific credibility) while insisting that science must provide evidence that by its very nature it is incapable of providing – like any evidence regarding any non-material object, like God.

    I have to respectfully disagree with your claim to understand, much less know, Christian beliefs. It is evident that you instead substitute myths & attribute the beliefs of individuals to it.

    – The simplistic idea that God tortures anyone for eternity is not Christian belief.
    – The “Myth of the Flat Earth” is not, and has never been Christian belief.
    – The heliocentric theory was developed by a Catholic Christian (N. Copernicus), & he was never shunned or attacked by the Church, but supported & promoted by it. (Uh oh – sounds like the use of science by theists to understand “God’s creation” better.)
    – The fact that people long ago did not know what the stars were has no bearing on Christian belief.

    I encourage you to examine what it is you really do believe, rather than just blindly claim not to believe things that you passionately argue for.

    Take care…

  13. 13 kevinbbg September 1, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Chris – as long as all you can do is tell ME what I believe and completely ignore my explanation, then there is no point in talking to you.

    You have worked so hard to come up with all your absurdities there is no room in your brain for anything else.

  14. 14 Chris September 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I do see that my response was a bit terse at the beginning – no offense intended.

    But I’m not sure how it is “ignoring your explanation” to directly answer your arguments.

    You claimed that “ALL of [my] statements about atheist’s beliefs” are completely wrong.

    My statements about atheist beliefs were:

    1) that most atheists & Christians often don’t seem to understand the beliefs of the “other side”, and
    2) that atheists commonly share belief in the concept of naturalism.

    You claim to not believe in naturalism, implying that it is because you “don’t even know what that is“, but then states a belief in the concept that the term “naturalism” describes.

    I answered your “explanation” by noting that you don’t have to know what the beliefs you assertions show you hold are called, & explained what naturalism is, & how your statements show you believe it.

    I answered your laundry list of errors & claims not about Christian belief, by pointing out that they don’t prove knowledge or understanding of Christianity, as they are merely incorrect claims about absurd myths & caricatures of what Christians supposedly believe.

    You reinforce my suspicion that failure to understand beliefs may be the cause of so many breakdowns in communication.

    Take care…

  15. 15 kevinbbg September 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    You certainly are clueless when it comes to atheists and clearly have no intention of listening to any atheist but just want to tell atheists what they believe.

    I’m done, further conversation is useless and annoying.

  16. 16 Global Villager September 2, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Fair enough Sabe…..but my point is there are at least some logical explanations for our origins etc found in science. We can observe these processes at work (or find clear evidence of them) whether we are talking about genetic mutation, natural selection, plate tectonics,and what have you.

    A magic man creating the Earth in 7 days and then sending his virgin born son on a suicide mission to somehow absolve the sins of humanity and then requiring that we drink his blood and eat his body every Sunday seems abundantly absurd and complicated to me.

  17. 17 sabepashubbo September 2, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    GV,

    Fair enough on your end also. The only part that doesn’t fit is the “drink His blood and eat His body every Sunday”, because not all religions and/or denominations adhere to that as necessary for salvation. Evangelical Christianity, in particular, views that as a tertiary issue, not a primary issue for salvation.

    I think the issue here is not the complexity of how. It’s the complexity of why. To me naturalism, when explaining the origin of the universe, has to get extremely complex in its explanation of why we are the way we are and how we got here in such specific conditions. The why for theism is much less complex.

  18. 18 EnlightningLinZ September 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Okay I think it’s time that I responded to all of these interesting comments…now I’m wishing I hadn’t procrastinated so long because there are so many! I’m just going to take these in order, so here goes…

    Kevinbbg-
    Thanks! When I wrote this comment I wasn’t expecting to change the mind of the person who wrote the initial comment. I more do it to practice responding to common criticisms of atheism, and I think those types of things are fun to read too. Good on you for changing one person’s mind, it’s not an easy task!

    sabepashubbo-
    I would love to hear your case for the existence of God, and I’m definitely willing to be objective. I know you wrote this comment awhile ago, but if you’re still up to the task, how about if you send me your case through the contact form (like up at the top), and I’ll make a similar blog post to this one to respond to what you have to say.

    Ani Sharmin-
    Thanks!

    Chris-
    I think that a lot of atheists have trouble understanding what Christians believe because of the diversity of Christian belief systems, so I often see a tendency to build up a strawman of what a Christian is. When I write about criticisms of Christianity, I try to base it on what I believed when I was a Christian.

    By the same token a lot of Christians and religious folks have a strawman idea of what an atheist is ( https://struckbyenlightning.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/defining-atheism-for-the-sake-of-my-sanity/ ). When you write “the atheist does this or that”, you’re assuming all atheists believe the same thing, when in reality the only thing atheists have in common are a lack of belief in God. This is why many atheists choose to identify themselves using other labels. Personally I would call myself a secular humanist, and a naturalist/materialist.

    I think it would be helpful if from now on in the comments we just stuck to what talking about I believe and what you believe, and that way we can avoid telling others what their beliefs are.

    So, the only way that I would believe in a god is if science were to provide evidence for the existence of a god. I accept the results of science because it has a proven track record. Science tests and re-tests claims, and through the process of peer review and replication, scientists can weed out claims that aren’t up to snuff. Science provides us with a picture of our universe based on the best available evidence, which means that this picture is constantly shifting when new information comes to light. These are all reasons why I try to base my knowledge on science-based evidence.

    It’s true what you say, that science tests the physical world, so the argument that science can’t test the supernatural is true. Science tests nature. But when people talk about gods, for the most part they’re referring to a god that interacts with nature in some way (by answering prayers, healing people). So if there’s a supernatural force out there, we should be able to detect it if/when it interacts with nature. There are many claims made about gods that are testable by science, so I think it is reasonable to expect that if one of these gods exists, scientific evidence would eventually surface.

    kevinbbg-
    Agreed!

    Chris-
    Yes, science only tests the material world, ie. things that are testable. Everything else is pure speculation.

    The self-correcting nature of science is one of its best virtues. Would you trust a field of science more if it refused to change when new information came to light? I think that the skepticism of the accuracy of science largely comes from poor scientific journalism. When journalists write about studies or new evidence, they usually try to be sensationalist, and make it sound like we’ll have to change our whole way of thinking about this or that. In reality though, basic scientific theories (gravity, evolution, germs, etc.) change very little, but the details are always shifting with new evidence. I hope I’m explaining myself okay.

    Global Villager-
    Thanks! And I agree with pretty much all you say. The historicity of the Bible is a really interesting topic. I think if I had taken the time to learn about how the Bible came together in its current form back when I was a Christian my beliefs would have fizzled out pretty quickly. The Irreligiosophy podcast has had some interesting episodes lately about this, eps. 72 and 73 if you’re interested (warning: they use lots of explicit language).

    sabepashubbo-
    You seriously need to re-think the theist’s position there. You’re forgetting all of the assumptions that would have to be made about the nature of God, where God came from, how he created the universe, what our purpose is, etc. This God would have to be extremely complex in order to create a universe, are you proposing it just popped into existence? If so, why couldn’t the universe just pop into exisence? Or do you take the common stance that God is infinite, has always been here, etc. Then why would it be a stretch to believe that the universe is infinite and has always been around? The naturalist’s position has fewer assumptions, and the naturalists’s position also has the benefit of being based on good evidence.

    Chris-
    I think I’ve dealt with a lot of what you said here. I just want to respond to this assertion: “Atheism requires belief in naturalism” – not true, there are atheists that believe in ghosts, witchcraft, or other paranormal ideas. The word “atheism” just means that the person doesn’t believe in deities.

    I’d like to ask here, because I don’t think I’ve seen you state it yet, what do you believe with regards to God, and how do you rationalize it?

    kevinbbg-
    Again, I agree lol

    Chris-
    Now I’m unsure what you’re talking about when you say “naturalism” – can you give me your definition?

    The rest of this comment was in response to kevin, so I’ll just leave it.

    kevinbbg-
    Yeah I think one of the biggest problems with the religion/atheism conversation is that people tend to assume they know what others believe. We’re always putting words in each others’ mouths.

    Chris-
    The stuff in this comment has already been dealt with.

    kevinbbg-
    see previous

    Global Villager-
    Fair enough? Nope look again at Sabe’s comment-it was a poor use of Occam’s razor. Naturalism makes fewer assumptions.

    sabepashubbo-
    Why do you think there’s a why?

  19. 19 sabepashubbo September 9, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Just to answer your last one, because I’ll contact you with regard to the others, the “why” explains purpose. I know this is a common discussion, but if random chance was the “how”, then there is no “why”, and therefore there really is no purpose or meaning for being here.

    If there’s no purpose for being here, there’s really no justification for continuing to be here, so in a real sense we are just wasting our time by living, because all it is doing is prolonging the inevitable–that we will die and return to dust. Without purpose, suicide of all humanity is the most viable option, because it arrives at the endgame sooner and doesn’t waste resources that could be used for other things (plants, for example).

    You might say our purpose is to learn and pass on information, but if the end result is non-existence, then there really is no point to it, because all information will eventually cease anyway. For there to be purpose under naturalism there has to be no end in sight (i.e. the universe will not end), which goes against the current scientific view.

    So can you see objectively how complex a naturalist must get in order to explain purpose, and that for a theist it is much simpler? A naturalist must explain what the purpose is for continuing human life when it would be more reasonable naturalistically for human life to cease, for the benefit of other natural creatures. But then again, if there’s no purpose for us being here, there is no reason for the other natural creatures to be here either, so without purpose the universe should not exist. That’s the reason there must be a “why”, and being purposefully created by God for a relationship with Him gives us that.

    Now to begin the objective case for God. Thanks! 🙂

  20. 20 kevinbbg September 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Sabe: Why do you think the universe is required to exist in a manner that you prefer? Do you think we get to choose reality or do we have to accept it.

    Purpose is meaningless and non-existant but you don’t see atheists committing suicide. We each find our own reasons for living – or not.

  21. 21 sabepashubbo September 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Kevin,

    Of course we don’t get to choose reality, but there is no purpose to that reality by random chance.

    I know you don’t see atheists committing suicide. You have made my point for me. It’s because we have purpose for being here, and the theist’s view is that the reason for this is because there is a God who specially created us with intent and design to have a relationship. He’s going to give everyone a chance to realize that, and it is the reasoning He has placed in you that makes you understand that suicide is, in fact, NOT the most viable option, because we have purpose.

    What I’m saying is that based on your purposelessness and meaninglessness for being here, you OUGHT to be committing suicide. The fact that you are not suggests that there is purpose, and purpose necessitates intent. Only the theistic view creates such intent, and that’s why it is the most plausible.

  22. 22 kevinbbg September 9, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    What we have is millions of years of evolutionary pressures to survive, beings who didn’t want to live – didn’t. Those who fought to survive passed on the genes of survival.

    Besides, you are completely wrong in every way. No atheist I know has “purpose” in the way you describe it, nor do we need or desire one.

    The fleeting nature of life is the very thing that makes it so treasured.

    If there was the kind of “purpose” you are talking about I probably would kill myself because life would be meaningless. “Purpose” itself would become meaningless because it wouldn’t be mine.

  23. 23 Chris September 14, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Lindsay,

    Sorry for the delay, but I’m sure you understand given you’ve had a crazy timetable lately too!

    I agree that confusion over what Christians believe seems to be universal among Christians & non-Christians alike! Personally, find the fact of individual beliefs tend to distort the actual beliefs. For example, many individual Catholics believe all kinds of contradictory things, but the Catholic Church holds a specific set of beliefs. Individuals who disagree with all/any of them don’t change the belief of the Catholic Church itself.

    You’re point that many individual atheists hold differing beliefs too is well taken. However, while I understand your pointing to the definition of “atheism”, I believe this fails to “see the forest for the trees.”

    Taken as a single word, “atheism” is indeed defined as:

    a disbelief in the existence of deity, or the doctrine that there is no deity“.

    “My” definition of naturalism (like “my” definition of “atheism”,) is the same as the one found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

    A theory denying that an event or object has a supernatural significance; specifically: the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena.”

    Unsurprisingly, the definition of “materialism” runs perfectly parallel to “naturalism”:

    a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.”

    Materialism posits that only physical matter exists, while naturalism conversely denies that anything that cannot be measured by scientific methods (material), exists – they are essentially two sides of the same coin.

    The belief (non-belief?) that is called “atheism”, is held on the basis that the existence of God must be supported by scientific evidence, which is a direct endorsement of naturalism/materialism – as such, I consider such a belief, whether explicitly or implicitly held, to be a prerequisite for the belief/non-belief that is called “atheism”.

    Any “atheist” who also believes in supernatural things (like ghosts, or witchcraft, or astrology, or whatever) holds contradictory & inconsistent beliefs if they also insist on scientific evidence for the existence of God, or else they cherry pick the evidence in an attempt to support the items they like, & dismiss any evidence that might support items they don’t.

    I think you’re right in noting that people refer to a God who interacts with nature, & it’s perfectly reasonable to state that “if there’s a supernatural force out there, we should be able to detect it if/when it interacts with nature.”

    Do you mean this in the same way that it is most commonly used, to imply that God must “perform on demand”, as if He’s a genie or something – Who must prove Himself to be considered “worthy of belief”? I sincerely don’t mean to sound inflammatory or insulting, but this stance, universally held by the “New Atheists”, is supremely egotistical, arrogant, & ignorant, especially when God is, by definition, far more intelligent, wiser, more moral, & more powerful than any person.

    Nonetheless, such interaction with nature can be & has been detected, quite often. The most obvious examples would probably be the plethora of “miracles” throughout history. And not just miracles from hundreds of years ago, amid “primitive mysticism”, for which there is no evidence, but miracles even in the last hundred years; many of which have left material evidence that can be examined today. There have also been many miracles in the last couple of decades which are not only claims, but have been examined by both religions & scientific authorities alike.

    In fact there is a branch of study that is specifically concerned not only with the study of God, but of God’s relation to the world in all ways – theology.

    Yes, both theology & miracles are almost universally dismissed by atheists, most commonly because of belief in the naturalist/materialist coin – “there just has to be a scientific explanation out there“, or else because “It’s just to absurd/ridiculous/tedious to bother with.”

    One cannot honestly claim to be “following the evidence” if they instead decide what evidence will be allowed based on preferred/predetermined outcomes.

    Take care…

  24. 24 Chris September 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    As to your specific questions:

    What do I believe with regards to God?

    I am a Catholic. In short, I believe God exists; Father, Son & Holy Spirit. etc.,…

    (For a long version, you can look here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm)

    How do I rationalize it?

    Lots of ways.

    For one, through education.

    While I learned a summary of Catholic belief when raised, I didn’t learn the necessary “why”. My ignorance of my own “faith” is why I had no answers for Protestant friends & others. I eventually left the Catholic Church, & even Christianity itself when I saw how many inconsistent & contradictory “flavors” of Christianity were out there. I got to a point of at least agnosticism for a long time – years & years.

    Inconsistency, contradiction & irrational arguments weren’t limited to Christians though, but I found it throughout the atheist & agnostic world too, just in different ways. The constant failure to find consistency & objective truth led me through all kinds of paths, until I came up completely empty.

    I ended up looking at the Catholic Church again, & decided to start looking at the absurd beliefs it taught, but as I learned what it really believed, & started examining it closely in accordance with things that are known by other means (like science), I found that it is coherent, it not only is it consistent, but it doesn’t contradict any known reality. As such, I ended up returning to the Church.

    I also have less “personal” reasons.

    One is my belief in not only the existence of, but the coherency & consistency of natural law. I believe that many sciences help us to “see” things that are not directly observable, often through inference.

    Another is my recognition of the fact that there are concepts that cannot be demonstrated empirically – in the lab, by scientific means. While philosophy is often shrugged off because it involves such concepts is a failure, because it fails to recognize that science itself is dependent on various philosophical disciplines, like epistemology, ethics, logic, metaphysics, etc., …

    Anyway, take care.


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