In the post Cleansing the Sinner I asked could Christians show me how I could come to know their God. I was finding it very difficult to get anyone to explain anything about Him to me. If Christians claim that they base their beliefs on something more than faith could they please tell me what evidence they have to support the claim that their God does indeed exist.

Then Jeff showed some understanding of what I was repeatedly asking for by saying:

I will admit, it does require some faith to believe Jesus is God. Faith, however, does not mean there is an absence of evidence.

I see this as an honest answer. I get the faith part. However I contend that there is a complete lack of evidence and that is the main reason I am an atheist. So if it not absent please tell me what it is. What evidence have you for your God’s existence. The Bible is not evidence. It is the claim for but not the proof of anything. If you can persuade me with your evidence I will become a Christian.

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Is evidence and rational argument so important? Aren't things other than evidence no better than demonstrating how useful and successful a concept has been?

Sky-god is a useful concept...so evidence (which is relative anyways) is not as meaningful as its utility. Christianity turned out some really nice buildings and impressive paintings and music. Without Christianity...who would have made paintings and built large buildings? Hmm? Christianity also unified a continent by efficient-and-well-organised-force so that all could believe in the same thing. Isn't having everyone believe in the same thing more useful than the anarchy of dangerous dissenting opinions? What would people have believed in if Christianity didn't oblige everyone to accept the useful sky-god concept? Christianity successfully brought the useful never ending religious war to Europe. If it wasn't for Christianity...who would have maintained the financial, technological and political fruits of sectarian-bloodshed? Christianity also encouraged scientific advancement that complemented the concept of God rather than what scientists selfishly felt like investigating on their own. If it wasn't for Christianity...who would have told scientists what to investigate and how to decorate their findings to complement our useful and successful bible? Christianity was also good at softening the culture of intellectual freedom and debate...if not for God fearing...who would have kept the dangers of opposing opinions at bay? It would have been the mad pandemonium of paganism otherwise. Christianity was extremely successful at stopping equality among men and women, among races and those with alternative life styles. Who would have kept women in the kitchen, homosexuals hanging by their necks and Africans in chains if Christianity wasn't there to efficiently realise these useful and successful goals? Isn't all this kind of usefulness and success of humanity...better than evidence?

In the end...it's just so juvenile and childish to keep expecting coherent arguments and impolite to keep begging us for evidence immersed in sound critical thinking. I really wish Reg...that for once...you would consider the magical usefulness and unquestionable success of Christianity and be content with that. It's just not fair.

Davis – Maybe I am a fool for not believing in their God. Apparently my heart is closed because I carry the stain of the sin of the first humans and I lack humility. So they keep telling me. I want to learn of this God but the Christians are refusing to tell me about Him, the cornerstone of what their Christianity is built upon. I spent a few hours last week asking Muslims the same question. Funny how both camps just can’t stop reciting pages from books to me. I suppose both are successful world views. What harm is there in that. It’s not like they ever caused any hurt is it?

If only they would admit it is all based on faith alone and that they have no substantive evidence to support their claims or even any reasonable argument to persuade us otherwise. They are great at saying I have it all wrong but are not forthcoming with any mature reasons as to why they still believe it themselves.

Larry is convinced they have nothing. He says there is no way humans can hold conversations with supernatural entities that exist outside of the Universe. He also says that humans will not become immortals when they die. I think I will be forced to agree with him soon as I believe he knows everything. He even said "Beware the light up ahead least it be an oncoming juggernaut. Be prepared to duck". How wise Larry is.

I realize this is all tongue in cheek, but I have heard the utilitarian argument so often (ignoring about half of what you cited, I'll leave it to the reader to figure out which half) it's getting tiresome.

However, I know Daniel Dennet has talked about the utility of professing a belief in god.  Not the truth of the matter, not even actually believing it, but the utility of claiming to believe it.  (One thing I've always admired about him is his insistence on, and ability to make it precisely clear exactly what he's getting at, he'll take pages if necessary to ensure everyone is on the same page (so to speak) before proceeding.  There's no point in having an argument based on a misunderstanding of the opponent's position.)

I agree SteveInCO. I have little or no concept of what theists mean when they use the term “God”. However they themselves generally don’t have a workable definition of the god they talk about. This is because any definition they give is self-contradictory in the terms it uses. I find that I am unable to assent to what remains after the definition is broken down.

The theist can justify their belief in “God” because it fits into the narrative of the worldview they have formed around it. The worldview becomes the important thing and little or no further intellectual consideration is given to “does God exist”. It is presupposed. It becomes “obvious” to them that “He” does because their worldview makes sense.

Many see their belief as though it is knowledge.  The initial belief does not pass through a process of justification before it becomes knowledge.  Justification is a process that makes a judgement call on the merits of a belief. The theist makes a subjective assessment of the belief in their own mind. If it passes they deem it justified and therefore call it “knowledge”. In his or her head the belief is deemed to be true.

However I am not in a position to do that with their beliefs.  They need to explain to me the cognitive process they used to weigh up the information they had to hand when making that judgement call to deem the beliefs as justified. The problem usually is that they can’t. This is because they never actually reasoned their way to belief. They took what they heard about it on faith. They accepted what other people who already believed told them. That is why a person born to a Christian family in (say) Alabama does not find Allah or why a teenager in a madras in Saudi does not find Jesus. People generally just belief in the gods they grow up hearing about.

It is because they did not work through a cognitive or intellectual process to “find God” that they are unable to offer any objective evidence to me when I ask them for it. They cannot make their justification objective because they never had any. Just as the Bible cannot be used to prove itself, a belief cannot evaluate itself. If the theists wants me to take their belief seriously then they must make it understood. I agree with you about Dennett and clarity. It is all too easy to misunderstand each other.

It is the refusal or rather the inability of the believer to define exactly what they believe (in) or why they hold those beliefs to be objectively true that is the problem. How can I assess the truth value of their claims if they cannot tell me about their God in the first place? I have nothing available to me to make a judgement call on. There is no concrete concept that I can give my psychological assent too.

Of course I am using words like “knowledge” and “truth” that need to be defined at the start of any philosophical debate. But we need to have a working definition of what the debate is about first. What do they mean by “God”? I understand that people attach values to their beliefs, especially religious ones. That is why we are seen as militant when we are skeptical of them (as opposed to cynical as last week’s Sunday School video mentioned :-)).

Debating religious beliefs is not the same as debating economic strategy. Religious beliefs are very personal. I discuss them at an intellectual level but often the theists will feel intimidated because when he tries to intellectualize the reasons for (still) believing, he reacts emotionally and gets defensive because the structure and validity of his whole worldview is automatically called into question.

That is why many theists “rage quit” Think Atheist. They are not getting the same confirmation bias they normally get from the company of other theists. I made a point earlier in this post about your “Top 3” beliefs but I doubt if anyone will reply. What often happens is that once they start to think about them doubt sets in. Then they either desist because they fear this doubt, especially if created by an atheist, or they embrace the doubt and eventually come to think “Actually what do I believe and why do I (still) believe it”. It is more rewarding to do than just trying to justify your beliefs by criticizing me for not believing them. It is not just atheists that don’t believe them. There are more people that believe in other gods than there are atheists but they don’t call them sinners or immoral or lacking humility with the same energy. But then not believing in their God is one thing, being an atheist is something else entirely!

A theist must be able to define the God he believes in. He must be willing to present his beliefs as more than just a subjective description of the state of his mind. A belief must be made objective with an explanation of the reasons why it is held so that others can decide if it is justifiable. If theists don’t want to engage in this process then they should keep those subjective views to themselves. If they want me to seriously believe they have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe, a god they cannot define, then the onus is on them to explain themselves. Until that time I will remain an atheist because I cannot bring myself to believe a word of what they are claiming to be in any way believable.

@Davis: "...Without Christianity...who would have made paintings and built large buildings?"

The Greeks, the Chinese, the Arabs, the Mayans and a shitload of others.

Nah...I mean transcendental paintings...once which awakens a moral touchstone and captures the mystery of divine awakenings. The Greco-Arabs and the Indo-Chinese never reached that level of human depth and aching nostalgia.

@Davis: "transcendental paintings"  Do you mean the ones like those produced by the native tribes here in North America before the Europeans invaded and started killing all the non-christians? 

Ohh that kind of transcendental (the you're dead now kind)!!!

I imagine those tribal folks were experiencing "aching nostalgia" for the good-old-days once the Christian faithful showed up.

Indeed. It is only when you've saved millions of black people and red skinned people souls by enslaving them and hacking them to bits...can you truly create the devastating beauty of Lord inspired frescoes and the grief-stricken realism of penetrating passion plays or the anguish soaked havoc expressed through Bach's cantatas. Without the bearded man in the sky...no art of this excellence and distinction could ever be.

Praise doG, the myth that keeps on deluding the minds of children and killing those who disagree, how can I refuse to be part of this ludicrous mindset? 

I seem such a fool not to adopt this pile of dung, in place of my reasoned thoughts.

Oh well I guess I will continue to live my life without the blessings

of the doG of Hatred and Evil.

I have Faith. Faith in The Tick.

@Poope: Damnit if only I had seen this before I had starting worshiping Thor.

So here is my dilemma:

I am currently worshiping Thor.  What if the Tick is the one true doG, I will surely go to Hell when I die.  If I change, deny Thor and accept the Tick as my savior and the one true doG and it turns out that I was right in the first place and Thor was indeed the one true doG, then I still end up fucked and in Hell. WTF  there is just no way out of this black hole of belief.

I'll stick with the warm loving arms of reality.

Thor is the divine grace of goodness and glory. I haven't read all of the sagas about him in fact I just read the wikipedia article, but it summarized things in such a convincing way...it's just not necessary to read them all. Total time waste no? Be assured...Thor is the king God...and his message (as summarized on the wikipedia page by Thor scholars who are clearly the intelligent authority on the matter) should be incorporated into our laws. Also...don't worry about the fact that his followers (mostly vikings and germanic warriors) did a bit of raping and pillaging and murder and rather gross dark stuff in the past. We live in the now. And Thor is just waiting for us to accept him into our hearts. Don't bite the dust and turn into another communist libtard!!!

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