Hi all,

I wanted to start a discussion to listen to adherents and hear what they have to tell us based on some questions I'd like to pose to them. In other words, I want to sincerely play the role of a seeker and ask them how I would know that their god is The One, True God. The purpose is not to deconvert or convert, I just want to walk through a seeker conversation where I'm allowed to ask questions of adherents and see what they have to say ... to listen. I am willing to expand on what I mean by "The One, True God" if a reader asks for that, to the extent that I think the definition is sufficient for the discussion.

This is the adherent's golden opportunity to proselytize; to convert me.

In order to do this effectively I need to ask the adherent for their imprimatur on a rule by which I can do this without bogging it down so that I can never get my questions asked. So, here it is. I'll ask a question as a hypothetical. It may be that there are more assumptions to the hypothetical that one could add, but I'll ask for the sake of discussion that we allow only the assumptions of the hypothetical I offer. This way, I can at least get through a few questions. If someone thinks the assumptions are insufficient just state that with your answer and we'll accept that as your answer informed by the assumptions of the question.

So, here's my question. I'll ask it and see if I can get a useful answer, recalling that I am a lifelong atheist who has never believed and who is sincerely trying to sort out all the gods out there and figure out which one to follow:

How do I know that your god is The One, True God?

Tags: Evangelical, Socrates, adherents, atheism, atheists, conversion, debate, deconversion

Views: 1739

Replies to This Discussion


Ok, I think that's fine, but we still need to identify this "pantheon" as The One, True God. How do we do that?

- kk

Hi Simon, How do you “Know” if your God is the one true God? “Know” as in Knowledge.

“It's my firm belief and opinion that there is One True God,”

That of course is a completely subjective statement. What you are actually saying is that you have Faith that there is on true God. The question asks how do you KNOW you have picked the right one?

Yes Reg, that's a very relevant question.  I'll do my best to answer you.  

I "know" it in a scientific sense.  I can say that certain things are caused by this process which I can call the One True God.  I make my assertion because:

  • there's only one of it
  • it's almost certainly the primary source of goodness in the world
  • it's profoundly effective
  • the same idea is shared by all the established religions, not the nutty ones like Scientology.  They each dress it up differently, but it's exactly the same idea and exactly the same description of enlightenment.

I would say they're complementary because each focuses on a different aspect.  Christianity - love, healing, forgiveness & sacrifice; Buddhism - truth; Islam - ethics; Hinduism - discipline (although I haven't properly looked into Hinduism); Wicca - Mother Nature; Atheism - science and rationality. 

Hey Simon,

But you're missing the point of the question. Let me say it again. I'm a lifelong atheist who has never believed. I have over 1000 gods to choose from. How do I know which god is The One, True God? You see, it is not a trivial question. For if I do not do this I could be worshipping an imposter.

- kk

Kir - my point is that the God of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Wicca and Atheism are all the same God. Or rather, their God all share a common, basic attribute - the one which actually matters to us. As atheists, we don't really care who or what created the Universe. What we do care about is how to get in touch with the Source of all Goodness. Most of the 995 other gods are minor bit-players it seems, like employees in a company - not creator Gods and not the Source of all Goodness.

Hey Simon,

Yea, I think we're both right here we're just having two different conversations. I just wanted to be clear what I was asking wasn't the same as what you're talking about.

- kk

OK.  So I need to justify WHY this is the One True God.  That's reasonable.  Give me a little while and I'll do my best. 

Jesus expertly employed and exemplified this Source of all Goodness.

Hey - one of the best, no doubt - kk

Hi Simon, Anything that is known through Science is discovered via the Scientific Method. The results can be viewed independently and it is irrelevant if anyone does not believe them. You cannot “know” the one true god in a scientific sense. You can only “know” it based upon faith. Unlike science, belief in god is purely subjective. There is absolutely NO scientific evidence for any god being “the one true god”. I will say that again. There is no evidence for any god existing.

Please don’t get me wrong when I say this but many Atheists find it insulting when Theists claim that the “primary source of goodness in the world” is from religion. I understand that way of thinking so I am not too bothered by it.  I also think that Atheism leads to a greater understanding of what makes us “good or evil” because of the conversations that flow from the philosophical viewpoint that does not need religion. Religious morality and laws are just not up to scratch anymore.

The “Ethics” of Islam are complementary to the “love” in Christianity and “rationality” of Atheism. Hmmm. I don't quite get that.

Why is Scientology “nutty” but not the belief that someone born a sinner can become immortal?

Hey Reg - Spot on - kk

Hi all,

I think at this point it might be beneficial to introduce a concept to mull over. I'm not going to tell you to believe it, I'm just bringing it out here so that we can more clearly see the context and meaning of the question being asked.

When we hear a story, a narrative, whatever it may be, we tend to think that the more details we have in our possession the more confident we can be in its truth. This is a common tendency of human beings. Therefore, it is very counter-intuitive when people take a probability class and learn that there is this thing called the Conjunction Fallacy:

The following is a mathematical theorem demonstrating a classic and common violation of what academics call the conjunction rule of probability theory:

P(A + B) ≤ P(A)  ∀ A, B ∈ ℜ ; that is, the probability that A and B are simultaneously true, is always less than or equal to the probability that A is true.

This redounds to the notion that whenever you add detail to something (make it more specific and less general) it may sound more plausible to human beings. However, the more general version is more probable. In the vernacular this is usually stated as “the simpler explanation is the more likely one” because simpler in this case means more general. This rule is a formalization of Occam’s Razor also known as lex parsimoniae (the law of parsimony, economy or succinctness).

Here's where people get horribly confused on this: if a story is general and has limited information, if we add information to that story it can either increase or decrease the odds that the story is true. It will increase the odds if the facts added are certainties; beyond any reasonable doubt. It will decrease odds if the fact added is itself conjectural or unsupported. That is what the Conjunction Fallacy is really about.

Let's take an example. Suppose a detective happens upon a scene in which a crime has just taken place. He walks into a home and a man is standing over a nude, bloodied female corpse, her body riddled with stab wounds. The man is holding a bloody knife and he is shaking, angry and despondent at the same time. He then begins uttering incoherently and shouting, "why do you cheat on me"?

The detective surmises that he cannot prove in a court of law that this man killed this woman. But here is what can say. It is more likely than not that this man killed this woman.

Unlike a judge, a police officer must act on this information as it amounts to probable cause. When the case is taken to court the judge will require significantly higher standards of evidence and argument.

He doesn't need to know any more than that in order to reach that conclusion. But notice that the conclusion he is reaching is qualified. He isn't claiming that he can prove this man killed this woman, he is only saying it is more likely. In other words, his conclusion is informed by the assumptions of the question, and we're okay with that if that is all he is saying.

So, even when two options are, when taken alone, unlikely in and of themselves, it doesn't mean that you can't compare them to ask which is more likely that the other. If this isn't clear please ask. But this is why answering "neither" is an invalid answer.

A similar, more blunt way of stating the Conjunction Fallacy is this.

Suppose I submit to you for our mutual observation an object.

Suppose I claim this object is a duck.

Suppose we both observe that this object both walks and quacks just as a duck does.

Is it more likely that this is a duck or more likely that it is not?

There is a reason why this American idiom is so popular. It's right.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck,

it probably is a duck.

We don't need to know any more about the object to say that. Could we refine those odds by learning more. Of course we could. But that's not the point. The point is that even with that information we are still able to conclude which of two alternatives is more likely.

- kk


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