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?
Sarah, if I understand KK's point here (he can be wordy) it's that, okay, why is it some people can hear about Jesus supposed sacrifice and read The Bible and not find in it proof that Christianity is the One True Religion?
Well, that's a good point. But really, my question is just as simple as it appears. I'm a seeker who wants to identify The One, True God. Otherwise, if I chose to follow any other god I'd be following an imposter, which would not only be pointless it would be quite reckless I should think. So, this question is actually quite important, purely from a practical point of view.
Right, but this isn't really what I'm asking. I'm asking, regardless of what I want, how would I know that your god is The One, True God? Even if I want to believe the first step is figuring out who the real McCoy is. If I want to worship a god I want it to be The One, True God. Otherwise I'm worshipping an imposter. I don't want to worshp an imposter.
So, this is not a minor question at all, right? To illustrate the point, you say I can walk into a church. Why not a Mosque? Why not worship Helios? I don't necessarily disagree wtih anything you say it just doesn't address my question.
How would I know that your god is The One, True God?
"They'll then tell you that now that you've given your life to God you'll start to also feel Satan attacking you because Satan doesn't want you to love God...So you'll get all paranoid...You'll start to read into things differently. And so the cycle begins..."
In the UK we have an expression. "Fuck that for a game of soldiers." This makes me both sad and angry on behalf of the good Christians I know. In my opinion, it's not Satan attacking you, it's your own and other people's egos.
"The ego sets itself up in opposition to love."
Love = truth; ego desires = distorted perceptions.
Love = heal the situation; ego desires = give me what I want.
Love = morality; ego desires = distorted morality.
Love = humility; ego desires = I am the most important.
Love requires strength; ego desires cause “complacency and self-concern”. (Richard Foster: “Life with God”)
In other words, it's firmly under your control what your own ego does, and then it's necessary to deal with the egos of others.
This -> can be interpreted in that light:
1: Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2: And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4: And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
22: And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
23: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
24: So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
The Bible: Genesis 3
I've just thought of something to add to that list. What do you think of this?
Love produces strength. Evil undermines itself.
I know some people don't like that I keep saying belief is a choice, but if you choose to open your mind and your heart, in the same way I opened my mind and heart towards atheism, if you did the same thing towards the Christian faith, (or perhaps any other,) you could find yourself believing it too.
The thing is Sarah, a lot of people here were religious, and many of us have tried being open minded to religion, and still are. But not so open minded that our brain falls out. Being open minded doesn't mean believing without evidence. And if you apply the same open mindedness you use towards everything else in the world, to religion, it will falter.
There is a video I posted a few weeks ago called "If god was a car," I suggest you watch it, and see how the open mindedness of religion applies to the real world.
The open mindedness that atheism requires, is the same open mindedness you use in every day life, when dealing with the real world. Religion demands a much different way of thinking.
I don't know if you've ever set foot inside a Christian church, but in MOST Christian churches there's ALWAYS some sort of invitation to accept Jesus as your personal savior. Always. They have dedicated people who will pray with you if you do, they may give you a Bible, sign you up for a Bible study and offer to call you for coffee...
This is true, but how will they react to the questions you are asking us? How would your bible study group answer your questions? Let me take a stab at it, if I may...
Something along the lines of:
"God works in mysterious ways."
"His ways are higher than ours."
"Trust in Jesus."
"That is just Satan trying to trick you!"
And so on.
A God present in everything is pantheism, but a pantheist God isn't a theistic god like Yahweh or Allah. It's basically, God is the universe and everything in it. A pantheistic god isn't a personal god and can't "save" anybody. For people to be saved, you need a god who is personal enough to make judgments about conduct. That would not be a pantheistic god. By the same token, such a god would neither propound nor guarantee a system of morality.
I think it is safe to say that we can't really answer this without applying a complementary question? If that is the case, I'm going to try a slightly different form of this question.
Let me begin by describing the ancient Greek explanation of the Sun’s apparent movement; that the Sun God Helios is pulling it across the sky from his fiery chariot. Of course, we know it only looks that way and the Sun is not moving across the sky, the Earth is rotating, and the Creator would have to know this. This is a strong clue that the author of this story and the Creator of the Universe are not one and the same. We could say that the author was clever and creative, but nonetheless human.
Helios is the young Greek god of the sun. He is the son of Hyperion and Theia. By the Oceanid Perse he became the father of Aeetes, Circe, and Parsiphae. His other children are Phaethusa ("radiant") and Lampetia ("shining") and Phaeton.
Each morning at dawn he rises from the ocean in the east and rides in his chariot; pulled by four horses - Pyrois, Eos, Aethon and Phlegon - through the sky, to descend at night in the west. Helios once allowed Phaeton to guide his chariot across the sky. The unskilled youth could not control the horses and fell towards his death.
Homer describes Helios as giving light both to gods and men: he rises in the east from Oceanus, though not from the river, but from some lake or bog (limnê) formed by Oceanus, rises up into heaven, where he reaches the highest point at noon time, and then he descends, arriving in the evening in the darkness of the west, and in Oceanus. (Il. vii. 422, Od. iii. 1, &c., 335, iv. 400, x. 191, xi. 18, xii. 380.) Later poets have marvellously embellished this simple notion: they tell of a most magnificent palace of Helios in the east, containing a throne occupied by the god, and surrounded by personifications of the different divisions of time (Ov. Met. ii. 1, &c.); and while Homer speaks only of the gates of Helios in the west, later writers assign to him a second palace in the west, and describe his horses as feeding upon herbs growing in the islands of the blessed. (Nonn. Dionys. xii. 1, &c.; Athen. vii. 296; Stat. Theb. iii. 407.) The points at which Helios rises and descends into the ocean are of course different at the different seasons of the year; and the extreme points in the north and south, between which the rising and setting take place, are the tropai êelioio. (Od. xv. 403; Hes. Op. et Dies, 449, 525.) The manner in which Helios during the night passes front the western into the eastern ocean is not mentioned either by Homer or Hesiod, but later poets make him sail in a golden boat round one-half of the earth, and thus arrive in the east at the point from which he has to rise again. This golden boat is the work of Hephaestus. (Athen. xi. 469; Apollod. ii. 5. § 10; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1632.) Others represent him as making his nightly voyage while slumbering in a golden bed. (Athen. xi. 470.) The horses and chariot with which Helios makes his daily career are not mentioned in the Iliad and Odyssey, but first occur in the Homeric hymn on Helios (9, 15; comp. in Merc. 69, in Cer. 88), and both are described minutely by later poets. (Ov. Met. ii. 106, &c.; Hygin. Fab. 183; Schol. ad Eurip. Pholen. 3 ; Pind. Ol. vii. 71.)
A similar story comes from a myth from Africa. It is a Kenyan creation story and can be found in a book called African Mythology. In it, the Sun and Moon were supposed to have the same light producing capacity but the Moon got mud on it when the Sun and Moon fought. Inaccurate and Earth bound descriptions are thus used and these are strong clues that a religion story was not authorized by the Universe’s architect. The key in these examples is to stress that these are only clues, not proof of anything.
So, imagine a person living in that time who fully and totally believed the Helios narrative. Suppose this person believed this because their parents and all the Greeks they knew also believed it. Of course, let us assume in any case that they had the freedom to explore, read and learn of other points of view; including those of other gods that existed at the time and the views of other cultures known to the Greeks at that time. So, in this example, our Greek person holds this view of the Helios narrative very solidly and strongly. It is ingrained from birth. This particular individual, in our example, harbors no doubt whatsoever about the truth of the Helios narrative.
And we can see why.
Even so, this person could easily educate themselves on alternative views. But they don’t because study after study done on this subject shows that when a person believes something they tend to seek out confirmation of that belief, not anything that argues against it. And this preference is apparently very strong. Academics call this Confirmation Bias which I'll describe below. So, this confirmation bias says this person might never pursue any other source material, or listen to arguments or ideas that support an alternative narrative – such as a foreign or alternative religion’s narrative – because it is human nature to seek out confirmation of a belief rather than an alternative. But let us add another wrinkle to this story. Suppose the “adherent” who believed in the Helios narrative as above also established his or her own logic to back it up; reasoning that the sun does appear to move across the sky and the background story on Helios is accepted by everyone he knows and in fact is recorded in ancient texts as being true. Ergo, Helios dragging the sun across the sky does in fact explain what he or she observes, he or she reasons.
About Confirmation Bias
Adherents will often seek out a concrete pattern to confirm a pre-existing, general belief. It is a form of failed induction. But failures of inductive reasoning can occur anytime there is a pattern in a set of specific examples in which multiple general solutions are possible. In these cases people will tend to adopt the pattern that induces their pre-existing beliefs. Since life is full of cases in which multiple general solutions exist to specific occurrences in life, this is readily exploited as well. The rate at which this occurs in a randomly selected group of people is around 73%; that is, 73% will tend to confirm a general solution that is incorrect or not verifiable by the pattern given.
I’d like to ask you a hypothetical in the form of what is called a binary comparison. I will pose it not as a question of how likely one thing is, but, rather, which of two things is more likely than the other. So, I'm going to ask if it appears more likely that the Helios narrative emerged as a result of Confirmation Bias or just because Helios is The One, True God. If those were the only two options you had, which would be more likely? It will be clear in a minute why I'm asking it this way.
So, my question now, which we can call Question Number 2, is a variant of the first one:
Is it more likely that belief in the Helios narrative is due to Confirmation Bias or is it more likely that Helios is The One, True God?
Yea, go ahead, poke fun :-) - kk