I was requested to post it, so why not? Here is the entire transcript from the facebook conversation I had with "the faithful" as was mentioned in my previous article. For anonymity I've chosen to use just first names for each person, if two people share the same first name I'll indicate with the name followed by 1 and 2.
This conversation is still ongoing and contains 98 posts as of right now, some are quite lengthy. Where I can shorten it, I will. At one point, someone quotes an entire website's front page. This took up about 4-5 posts, and a lot of space, but I will just post the link to the website where you can read it for yourself (which I recommend if my response to it is to be understood fully).
Tom (page owner): Is Wondering: who has more faith, the Christian or the Atheist? Your turn:
Sara: depends on the person. each can have doubts, and each can be absolute in their belief.
Matthew: I would think over all average would be the atheist. Too many people claim to be Christain but that is all.
Clinton: To me, there are no levels of faith. Like Sara said, faith is absolute...an undying and unquestionable belief. Each feels justified as to why they believe what they believe. I think though more Christians actively incorporate their faith in their lives than Atheists do.
Cynthia: Clinton- question for you: based on the Athiest belief system... what do Athiest people have faith in? For example, we have faith that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins.... what do Athiests have faith in?
Clinton: That religion is created in the mind.
Cynthia: That is what they have faith in? Or would it be better suited to say that Atheists have faith in themselves?
Tom: Clint, if religion is created in the mind, how do you explain the law of probability when it comes to the 2000 prophesies concerning Christ? Coincidence?
Nathan: silly tom lol
Sara: well with that.. do you believe in all the nostradamus predictions and all that stuff?! bc people say that its easy to find accuracy in something when thats what you're looking to find.. lol even horoscope things everyone says they're so on but if thats what you're looking to find its gonna seem that way? idk?
Clinton: It's easy to explain the law of probability. The law of probability is a measuring stick which cannot be changed or altered...interpretation for what satisfies a prophecy does. When it comes to the 2000 prophesis of Christ you also have to consider the context in which the prophecies were written. Translations from Hebrew to Greek to English, when they were written and by who, there motive, and way in which they were written are all variables one must consider.
Clinton: But then again Christians ultimantely don't have to consider these variables due to their blind faith.
Tom: Clint, what are the odds that 700 years before Christ that someone said the Messiah would die on 2 pieces of wood?
What are the odds that the prophecy would state that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem?
What are the odds that a prophecy would state that the Messiah would be betrayed exactly for 30 pieces of silver?... See More
No argument okay, just an honest answer. We're friends, to call it blind faith is kinda foolish when some of these odds come up right correct?
Scott: I think I can end this debate by saying that a true Christian will have the most faith, I couldn't imagine even an Atheist goes through life without at least wondering about a higher being...If a Christian is wrong at least you lived a good life, if an Athiest is wrong without accepting Christ before they die then what?
Josh: Tom, they both have a lot of faith. One puts their faith in the Creator, the other puts their faith in the creation.
Ken: Putting faith in creation??? now that is blind faith.
Adam: Christians have faith, atheists stick to their ignorance...
ME: Tom... first of all, Hi. I think it's been over 15 years since we were in touch. How are things? Second, to answer your question, Christians have more faith. Period. Atheists don't have faith. Faith, by definition, is belief without evidence - or trust in the unknown/unknowable. Atheists become so by only choosing to believe what they have sufficient evidence for. In the absence of evidence, they tend to reserve judgment. Most atheists would happily concede to religion if religion provided ample, verifiable, testable, observable evidence about the existence of God. Since this can't be done (in favor or against), they don't believe what there is insufficient evidence for (aka, they don't have "faith," or trust in the unseen/unproven, as it's defined).
ME: To continue, I'd actually prefer it if you'd quote the Bible where you make references about prophecies. Many Biblical prophecies attributed to Jesus are falsely interpreted, and in some instances fulfilled later in the same (Old Testament) book, and therefore cannot be attributed to Jesus. Additionally, the probability of a Bronze Age apocalyptic scholar (with access to the Jewish writings as they then existed and attempting to portray a new projection for the Jewish people in a time of crisis/post-exile-Temple-destruction) to "insert" and "fulfill" said prophecies in his "revealed" scripture, is very high, actually. Especially considering the lack of academic checks and balances, or peer review. Moreover, the probability that other apocalyptic scholars of the same age, with access to the writings of the first scholar (and noting its popularity among the post-exiled masses) to copy said scripture and build upon it further "revelations" with added hyperbole, is also very high.
Ken: I believe it was Spurgeon who said many do not believe for the sole reason they do not want to have to answer to the God who created so they would much rather believe a lie, even when there is ample verifiable evidence which can be tested (Romans 1:16-21).
Clinton: Firstly, my intention is not to offend. Merely open a dialogue in a hope of understanding both sides. Tom - The acts of perceived foolishness goes both ways. When I say blind faith I mean that there are conditions that Christians must meet and one of those is never questioning their faith. So when I say blind I mean they don't allow themselves to see anything that might contradict their beliefs. The law of probability is black and white; a coin-flip if you will. You're assuming that the texts are 100% accurate and they are not. You're also assuming that the translations you base your findings on are 100% accurate. They're not. Assuming all these are accurate, I understand the justification for your faith. It's hard to argue those prophecies but for me it's a stretch to commit and remain loyal on what I consider assumptions. Ultimately, it still boils down to having faith in what you are believing. I respect religious faith because I respect an undying belief in something bigger. I don't have to believe it to respect it. Scott- From that respective you could argue that Atheists take a risk of damnation if they are wrong but they too can still lead a good life with god. Also the argument can be made that if Christians are wrong they spent their whole lives allowing religion to shape and mold who they are and live a life being held back by religion. I laugh at the ignorance crack. It is I who is ignorant? I don't even know you but I'm willing to bet you belong to the exact church as your parents did and their parents. You're ambivalent to the social structure within the family and the church that, in my opinion, fuel your ignorance. Evolution has evidence supporting it. Evidence/proof/tangible items.
Ken: Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Jeff: Odds that I evolved from a single cell organism over 100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 to 1. Much easier to believe that God loved me enough to send his son to die for my sins. So as ironic as it may be, Atheists probably have more faith. Imagine the potential for good if these people,like Paul, were to turn that faith in the right direction.
Scott: I love the argument that Clint made in regards to evidence of evolution, I guess the billions people of different faiths around the world are still waiting on this so called proof, only academics who have spent their careers searching for this proof believe that it exists. These are probably the same guys who came up with the global warming hockey stick graph. If anything with the recent climatgate findings you can come to a conclusion that science is only as good as the person who is practicing it, and it is always open for interpretation. Scientist who must justify grants for their livelyhood will always find something. So if you studied your whole life on the theory of evolution and spend your career looking for the missing link it is more then likely that you would jump to unjustified conclusion in regards to your findings, then to put forth an un-biased finding. "If humans evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?" It goes to show that the theory of evolution cannot be absolute, how do some animals in a species evolve while others of the exact same species do not? same with global warming, if it is absolute how do we have colder years? to be fact wouldn't it have to get warmer every year? I would much rather leave my life up to faith in God then some scientist who has a motive.
ME: @Jeff: I'll quote the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins for a response. "What is it that makes natural selection succeed as a solution to the problem of improbability, where chance and design both fail at the starting gate? The answer is that natural selection is a cumulative process, which breaks the problem of improbability up into small pieces. Each of the small pieces is slightly improbable, but not prohibitively so. When large numbers of these slightly improbable events are stacked up in series, the end product of the accumulation is very very improbable indeed, improbable enough to be far beyond the reach of chance. It is these end products that form the subjects of the creationist's wearisomely recycled argument. The creationist completely misses the point, because he insists on treating the genesis of statistical improbability as a single, one-off event. He doesn't understand the power of accumulation. In "Climbing Mount Improbable", I expressed the point in a parable. One side of the mountain is a sheer cliff, but on the other side is a gentle slope to the summit. On the summit sits a complex device such as an eye or a bacterial flagellar motor. The absurd notion that such complexity could spontaneously self-assemble is symbolized by leaping from the foot of the cliff to the top in one bound. Evolution, by contrast, goes around the back of the mountain and creeps up the gentle slope to the summit: easy!"
Ken: And that is why I quoted the passage from Romans. Thanks for proving it.
Scott: By the way just wanted to say that Tom is an awesome teacher...
Doug: I always liked the phrase "There are no athiests in foxholes". Meaning when you put your butt in the line of fire, you're going to put your faith in something other than the person on the right or left.
ME: @Scott: Wow. No offense intended, truly, but I've rarely seen such ignorance displayed so proudly in a public forum (on second thought, yes I have, and usually by Creationists). Man did not evolve from monkeys, and Evolution does not say we did. Man and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor, that is what evolution says (about us anyways). Climate change scientists are advocating for an amount of data which says that our climate, on a whole, is heating up. That does not necessarily mean that the entire planet at all times of the year are going to be hotter. It means the average, accumulated heat of our planet is steadily increasing to dangerous levels. The danger is not necessarily just a hotter planet, but exponentially more intense climate changes which our species (as well as all others) may have more and more trouble adapting to (and therefore surviving). And, what "missing link" are you referring to? Scientists have charted the evolution of man over the course of the last few hundred thousand years or so with available fossil evidence.
ME: @Doug. No atheists in foxholes? Then why is there a monument to just such a distinction in Alabama? http://www.ffrf.org/outreach/atheists-in-foxholes/
Jeff: For many science is a religion and Al Gore (the all mighty creator of the internet) is one of its PROFITS. Replacing God with nature shows misplaced faith not the lack of it. To me it seems that the agnostic is at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to faith.
ME: The agnostic is at the bottom of the totem pole? How do you define agnostic then? I'll help you, "gnostic" refers to "knowledge." Therefore, a gnostic is someone who claims to have knowledge of something (typically referring to religion). The agnostic, inversely, is someone who does not claim to have knowledge. An agnostic is someone who says, "I don't know if God exists." The subsequent statement will then clarify where they stand in regards to belief. If they follow with "... but I believe there is a God," then the person is an Agnostic Theist (theism refers to belief). If the statement is followed by "... therefore I don't believe in God," the person may then be characterized (in this bi-polar characterization) as Agnostic Atheist. (And I'm sure you meant that Al Gore is a PROPHET, not a PROFIT, that statement confused me for a second).
ME: Furthermore, atheists don't replace God with nature. I'm sure religionists also show respect and awe for nature much the same way as atheists do, just with an added presumption about who/what created it. Atheists simply remove that added presumption. There is no replacement.
Doug: Hey I think it's great there is a monument, I never heard of it before. People of this world have all kinds of beliefs, whether you call that higher power: God, Buddah, Yaweh, Vishnu, or whatever. Atheism according to wikipedia is taken from the connotation of Theism in the broadest sense is the belief that at least one deity exists. So whatever that deity is, you still have some belief, that diety could be a person, a thing or just a belief. A religious class in college gave me the following examples: A person that goes to church vs a person fishing. My answer is and was their common thing is they are a place they are at peace with and to many, they put faith in that peace and that lies in their belief.
Scott: [to ME] your "no offense intended" right before saying something truely offensive doesn't make what you say less offensive. I really think that Atheists and Evolutionists really hate believers because they themselves are lacking in their personal lives...so they lash out at others...Goes to show that liberals and non-believers really just care about their own freedom of speech while trying to stifle others...Everything that isn't proven to liberals that helps them reach their goal is fact and everything that goes against it is stupid, or racist, or nazism, or dangerous, or whatever else the flavor of the week is....If you are not a believer then that is fine with me, just don't attack those who wish you and everyone else well, and believe in God. Thomas Jefferson," My neighbor can believe that there is twenty gods or no god, it niether breaks my leg nor picks my pocket. And like I said about science it is only as good as the person doing it, I guess the idea of science is to stay skeptical but it is funny how when tons of grant cash is out there it is nothing but facts...I am all for keeping questioning going but when the same NASA scientist screaming about global cooling in the 70's is now telling me that we are experiencing global warming while here in california we have just had one of the coldest winters in 30 years I think that would be a reason to be skeptical and not biased in regards to the facts.
Jeff: [to ME] the problem I have with your arguement is that each step is the sheer side of the cliff and each mountain is Everest. On top of that we are not only climbing Everest one time but millions and each time by a fat old guy like me. Using my own terms you are answering the question how can one swallow an elephant by answering one bite at a time. The problem I have is that in order for evolution to be the answer nature has had to be swallowing elephants whole for millions of years. You can break down the power ball lottery into odds of choosing the first ball correctly of being 1 in 57, Then once you get that one right you can move on and then the chance of getting the second ball right is also 1 in 57. That doesn't change the fact that the odds of getting from point A to point C is 3249 to 1.
ME: Scott. My apologies if you were offended. I can't help but feel riled when a group pretending to hold moral truths, tolerance, and true love, can only declare of their opposites derisive, stereotypical caricatures. The atheists is lacking in his personal life the same way a theist is lacking in his. Each life is unique and experiences life differently. There is no one right way to live. But that person does not experience a personal lacking due to their unbelief, nor does the theist experience a lacking due to his belief, either. Belief and unbelief are ways of viewing the world and your reasons for holding either position is tantamount to your experiences, education and perceptions. I don't see where liberalism comes into this conversation. I'm assuming this is another bigoted stereotype you lump in with anything you view negatively. Believe whatever you want. I agree with Thomas Jefferson's quote, but if you are going to make statements about science then you must open those statements to peer review. To claim scientific knowledge, but refuse to hear its rebuttal (or to be offended by it) is stifling the free speech of people who are generally curious about scientific things, and a slap in the face to the thousands of scientists who have gone through the trouble of accumulating this difficult-to-obtain knowledge. Science is NOT only as good as the person doing it. This shows your lack of knowledge about science. Science is a collective enterprise, spanning every generation of human history. What was discovered 3000 years ago was gradually improved upon by every subsequent generation across the globe. Where we stand with science today is a product of those past innovations and all recent discoveries are open to public debate and peer review. How can you have a peer review session or public debate about privately held faith?
ME: Jeff, the whole point of the "Mount Improbable" cliff is that life has been slowly evolving up a very slow, steady, gradual cliff for BILLIONS of years (with a B). This does seem absolutely improbable if you take the creationist claim literally that earth is only a few thousand years old. But try for a moment to grasp the immensity of billions of years. It's extremely difficult for the human mind to fully understand such a complex number in terms of time, which is probably why early man invented such a small number for how old the earth was. He simply couldn't envision a larger, more realistic number. The lottery example you gave is a moot point. Evolution is not a lottery, in the same sense that you provided. You are right in the sense that winning the lottery is very improbable. But if you broke the lottery down to where getting one number right would result in you winning the lottery, then it's very probable (only 1 in 57 as you pointed out) that you could win. This IS how evolution works (in a way), and, as you might guess, there is usually more than one winner --- taking place each time there is a lottery --- hence the immense number of different species!
Jeff: [to ME] at least to me you have said nothing offensive and have no need to appologize. I can only offer why I believe what I believe and explain why the best of my ability. As far as Al Gore it was a play on words.
ME: The play on words makes sense. Well played, sir.
Scott: This is exactly my problem [ME]...you seem to look at facts you feel are a general concensus among scientist without looking at even opposing views among other scientists...there are scientists out there that believe in intelligent design as well as climatologist who think global warming is a scam...the one thing you claim to be the truth! Science is far from it...a person searching for complete truths will rarely find them and for a scientist to say something is the whole truth and nothing but the truth will only limit themselves leaving the possiblity that there may be more...the culture of science has been more about grant money then anything now....there is a great documentrary from Ben Stien called expelled....it shows that scientist who worked for the smithsonian were released after writing papers about intelligent design....also there are plenty of emails to read from east anglia in regards to how climatetologitst would hinder those from writing in journals opposing global warming.....You can't say for an absolute fact there is no god while saying science has proven beyond a reasonable doubt to prove otherwise....I think you need to open your mind to the fact that there is a big world out there...
Jeff: As far as what I said about agnostic please regard the statement only in the narrow sense it was intended, the amount of faith it takes to sustain that piticular belief. I neither elivate myself or see people as lesser due to their views on God or even a lack of one. I can offer what I believe to be truth and why but I will try to take the beam out of my own eye before I tell you to get the speck out of your own. Now I do believe that there is a judgement, but I'm pretty sure I am not the judge.
ME: Scott, where, in any of this back-and-forth, have I expressed that I know for certain any of this stuff? Or that scientists unanimously agree with anything? About climatologists, my statement pretty clearly said "climate change scientists are advocating..." I did not say "ALL scientists are advocating..." I'm pretty sure I said "science is a collective enterprise, spanning every generation in human history." Not "science is saying what is the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth." Not all scientists claim truth, most just claim asymptotic approaches to the truth. Ways of viewing the world through critical inquiry. Science is always open to review, change, adaptation, evolution (if you will).... is religion? is faith? If you were a construction worker and there was a group of New Age architects who truly believed that building skyscrapers on loose, sandy foundations was the next best thing in architectural design, wouldn't you, as someone who understood the lack of structural stability of buildings built on unfirm foundations, feel obligated to say something, or stifle those New Age builders in any way? Lives are at stake here, man! Likewise, Intelligent Design is NOT SCIENCE, it is a completely biased approach to metaphysics through 2000-year-old scripture written by Bronze Age nomads. It is not scientifically verifiable through the same mediums as evolution. It must be taken on faith, which means it belongs in the religion or philosophy classroom, not the science classroom. Our intelligence is at stake, man!
Jeff: I love the thoughts from all of you and Tom it's just like you to start a fight and head off to teach school.
Scott: I gotta get back to actually doing some work so I can't be doing this all day....So i would like to leave by saying that I see people everyday of faith doing amazing things, feeding and clothing the poor, getting medication to sick children, teaching morals and life lessons that enrich people's lives, living good lives and teaching others to do the same. Faith fills the holes in people's lives making them better people and this makes the world a better place. And when I see this....this is what makes me believe...To me I just don't understand even for non-believers...what is the point to attack believers? They do great things for so many people, if they weren't believers and didn't feel the need to help all of god's children the world would be a horrible place...I think that it all boils down to some elitist attitude that they are better, or smarter and they feel the need to try and put others down and try and take from them what they lack and that is faith...it is a sad day when a country founded by believers and on christian/jewish value systems you can't even speak of god in public. God is what made this country great...and our faith is what will allow it to continue to be great! Have a nice day everyone!
ME: I too need to get going. I agree with Scott's closing argument. People of faith do great things. But we must never forget the evil which can also spring from the same mind-set. Take a moment and replace the concept of "faith in the Judeo/Christian God" with "faith in Zeus," or "faith in unicorns." The great things accomplished by these Greek pagans, or unicornists, would not be paled in comparison due to the change in the deity being worshipped. Yes, people of faith can do great things. But it is not necessarily their faith that makes them do so. Maybe it is for some, but it isn't for all of them. An old lady falls down in front of you, is it your personal faith which compels you to help her back up, or your common human decency? Non-believers don't attack believers for their faith (at least not always). Typically it is the statements made by the faithful which non-believers have issue with. Believe what you want. Have faith in whatever you want. But when you try to introduce something as personal and intimate as faith to a public sphere, and claim it as absolute truth which can't or shouldn't be questioned, you immediately alienate the people who cannot agree with your point of view due to their difference in belief structure, or lack thereof. This is why God is left out of public places, and should remain so. Criticize someone for buying an Apple instead of Macintosh, and they will disagree and laugh about the difference in opinion, but criticize their religion and you better duck and cover. Religion is more than an economic decision, it is a way of viewing your existence and any challenge to it is frightening. That is why it's left out of the public sphere. But that doesn't mean it can't be debated among individuals in various forums, whether public or private. Nothing makes me feel more alive and vibrant than a religious dispute for the very reason that it invigorates my intellect and curiosity and forces me to think critically about what I believe and why.
Tom: So, if I have faith that the flowerbed in my front yard is a god, that is considered good? Um, no guys, faith in false things like pagan gods or Greek deities is foolishness NOT faith. We cannot confuse the two. Real faith is believing something to be true despite not being able to see it. Faith that we need a savior is obvious...we lie, we steal, our minds are constantly in adultery. Right? We're being honest here, right guys? So are we to commend ourselves for saying we believe in something? No way, we must believe in the right thing. Your Turn:
ME: Wrong. Who are you to define what the right thing is? And faith in pagan or Greek deities is not "faith in false things," you just want it to be, and don't feel ashamed debasing the generations which followed those beliefs. Millions of people in a different age looked upon these deities the exact same way you look at Jesus and the Judeo/Christian God today. There is literally no difference in the way you believe compared with the way they believed. Additionally, are you going to travel to Saudi Arabia and tell them they believe in a false God, which they dedicate the bulk of their life's efforts to? Who are you to decide? Just because you think you found something to believe in, doesn't make it right for others. I find it strikingly easy for someone born and raised in the Bible-Belt Midwest to declare Christianity the only truth. You are engulfed in a Christian culture. I know, because I'm also from that region. You rarely have someone stand up and challenge your perspective on religion because it's just "understood" where you live that Christianity is "obviously" right. You are a product of living in a Christian town of a Christian state of a Christian region of a largely Christian country. Come visit me in Israel and see if you find sympathetic views to these presumptuous questions you often ask about faith. And by the way, if faith that your flower-bed is a god leads you to do good things, live a good life, love yourself and your fellow man in like ways, and to not harm others, then yes, this faith would be considered a good thing... no matter how crazy it may sound to someone else. But you could act the same way and lead the same life without that faith, wouldn't you agree?
Jeff: [ME] first let me thank you for your thoughts even though I disagree with a lot of them. I'm tought that God would rather a person be hot or cold as opposed to being luke warm. I often in examing my life find that that I am the the latter. Meaning that at many points in my life my God would perfer you to me.
I can not define right, I have neither the wisdom or knowledge to do such a thing. Luckily I don't have to, the Bible does it for me.
Now even though I grew up surrounded by all the Christian influences that you mentioned, it is presumptious of you to think my belief in Christ as my saviour is a product of environment instead of a choice. I've studied other religions and even though some aspects of what I believe I can only believe due to faith, I follow the Bible because it intellectually makes the most sense to me. Do I have questions...yes. Are there points you could make that I would have no come back to...again yes. I could probably find inconsistancies in your beliefs.
So why did I decide on Christianity, because I believe that when all of the evidence is examined it simply makes the most sense. I don't believe God wants us to blindly follow him because that's what we've been taught to do, but instead search with an open and honest heart for truth and by doing that it will allow God to find us.
Do people of no faith live moral lives, yes. But I also know that I am a better person due to my walk with Jesus Christ.
Trying to follow a perfect example causes a person to grow in ways that following a flower box would not.
As far as what I would do in Saudi Arabia...well you're right it would not be wise to stand on a street corner with a Bible in my hand yelling Muslims suck and are going to burn in hell. The Bible gives an example of Peter coming to a market where they had idols built to every god. In fact they even had an idol built to an unknown god just in case there was a god out there they did not know about. Instead of condemning the crowd for idol worship Peter congradulated the people for being people of faith and used the unknown god to teach about Jesus.
ME: Hi Jeff. Welcome back. I'm curious, what beliefs do you think I possess? While I may be hot or cold on some issues, I'm also luke warm on many others, but I'm always open to changing my mind if the argument is compelling enough. But arguments must flow from some element of rational thought, not a hodge-podge of ancient mythology, spiritualism, and pseudoscience, which is what most religions are (including Christianity). The only tool we each have is our mind and the logical structures inherent and developed within it. How we use that tool is a product of a combination of factors, both biological and environmental. You say your belief in Christianity is not a product of your environment, I disagree.
Had you been born to a Muslim family in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, you'd likely be Muslim. Had you been born to a Jewish family in Bnei Barak, Israel, you'd likely be Jewish. Had you been born to a Hindu family in Calcutta, India, you'd likely be Hindu. Had you been born in Athens, Greece, in 500 BCE you'd probably worship Zeus or Apollo, and so on. Don't you find it odd that very few (if any) people around you who were born into Christian families convert to other religions? Likewise for people from Jewish families, Muslim families, Hindu families, and so forth? There is shockingly very little cross-confessional conversion throughout the world (that's not to say it doesn't happen, though, and in every direction). But this is mostly the case where children are raised in a household where all they are taught are the values of one religious system and then, naturally, any other system sounds like Chinese to them. That's likely the reason Christianity makes the most sense to you. You're used to it, much like you're used to speaking English. Now that doesn't mean that no choice is involved. Of course you have a choice. But it's not as diverse as people want you to believe it is. You have a choice between varying sects of Christianity, or you can choose atheism. If you chose another religion, where would you practice it? Who could you consult with? Where would you learn its tenets? Where would you worship? Would you learn that religion's language (Arabic = Islam, Hebrew/Aramaic = Judaism, Sanskrit = Hindu, Chinese = Buddhism, etc.)? Don't you see how all the odds are completely stacked against you choosing anything but Christianity where you live? You don't think that has a major impact on your decision?
For a comparison, consider the following: Would you, Jeff, eat scorpions grilled on a stick, as they do in China? or, like me, does the thought repel you (that's not to say I wouldn't try it though)? Do you consider snails a delicacy as they do in France? How about monkey brains in India (Temple of Doom, anybody?)? But we dare not say that Indian, French, or Chinese people are evil or immoral or going to burn in hell for their choice of dessert. But they do consider these meals to be delicious and satisfying, even if WE are grossed out by them. Everyone develops different taste buds depending on their environment and culture, and this is true for more than just food. "Society" is not a passive force, it is a highly active force which molds and shapes you, even if you're unaware of it. Where you think there's a choice, there often isn't, but you also rarely recognize or acknowledge this fact because that's how convincing this active force really is. Only when you've questioned everything; only when you've doubted all; only when you're willing to go against conventional wisdom and challenge authority do you discover real truth, and I don't mean absolute truth, I mean YOUR approach to the truth. That, I think, we agree on, even if the end goal is slightly different.
ME: Furthermore, I think you do have the knowledge and wisdom to decide what is right... for you. You should know by now what you like and don't like. What behavior suits you and what doesn't. You know how to act properly, but also when to cut loose, and how to cut loose. You decide what is right every single day of your life. To say that you don't have to think about what is right because you have a 2000 year old book to do it for you is a huge cop-out and an insult to your "God-given" intelligence.
Despite our disagreements (and having never met each other) I would dare say you possess the tools to make moral and ethical decisions in your life. But I would also be the only one around you (most likely) to say that you would be no different, morally speaking, if you didn't have religion. Your ability to differentiate right from wrong has absolutely nothing to do with your faith. And I can prove it.
Example 1: A trolley cart is out of control and careening towards a group of 5 people who will surely die if nothing changes. You have the power to pull a lever, however, and divert its course, but by doing so you'll kill 1 innocent by-stander who happens to be on the diverted path. What do you do?
Example 2: Same situation. Trolley cart, out of control. 5 people in peril. This time, however, you could save those 5 people by pushing a big fat guy off a bridge and onto the path in front of the trolley slowing it down enough to let those 5 people leap to safety. Do you push him?
This was an actual experiment conducted (through survey) on people of all faiths, and of no faiths. The results were more or less the same in all groups. The majority of people would pull the lever in the first example, but not push the fat guy in the second. Can you guess why?
Because the human mind, as it's "programmed" has built-in cost-benefit analysis structures which weigh multiple variables very rapidly to make the most beneficial decision for any given situation, and within the accepted social action. Pulling the lever was a chance to be a hero by saving 4 people (1 still had to die). But the gut wrenching idea of being responsible for the murder of an innocent fat guy on a bridge was appalling to almost everyone. This moral structure existed in each participant's mind, even if they couldn't understand why. Faith or no faith, it didn't matter. This inherent morality exists. The faithful just don't want it to exist because it undermines their message. But what a wonderful concept! We are all moral and good, even without God! That should make you feel better about the world!
Jeff: hey [ME] email me @ XXXXXXXXX. I dont want to take up Tom's fb wall. Look forward to talking to you
Tom: take it up guys, your both my friends
Tom: [ME], if right and wrong is what I think or you think, then if I think punching Jeff in the nose is okay, then it is? Um, no way. Answer this okay buddy?
Have you ever lied?
Is lying okay?
Have you ever stolen (even something small like music off the internet)?
Is stealing okay?
Tag youre it bro,
Nicholas: cost-benefit analysis structures vs. critical thinking?
Nicholas: Your wife is in the path of the truck, and the only way of saving your wife is by pushing you mother in the way of the truck. Who do you love more, and if your mother asked what would you say?
We do not know what is in the hearts of people who live in other environments. We do not know if God revealed him self to the man in Mecca or in Tibet.Those who cannot practice their faith since they are in a kind captivity or not part of the 'Universal Christian Church' as perceived by a few who might think such a thing could only exist in the western world.
My God wants all your charity love, and in this your faith should be apparent and would reflect this faithfulness outwardly for everyone to see.
Atheism is about a misunderstanding of how not all religions are cults, although there seems to be a conspiracy from the right to make all religions one cult about nothing but business. If the atheist avoids religion for the purpose of not losing his minds to a cult, IMHO that is a good thing. I would like, however to invite the Atheist to not over generalize and apply the same characteristics of one follower of a given faith type to all who might be of said religion.
My ability to understand the style of my faith is not completely hindered by any given environment. I would like to think that I am able to critically process information and make judgments as an independent individual. Maybe the atheist cannot hope to exceed the bondage of the religious right, and that is why so many seem to think that we're just part of an ecosystem and play our roles like mindless automatons. From my observations cults tend to do that.
ME: I'll respond as quickly as possible as I'm already late for work. I'll come back later with more. Tom, morality is not black and white. Yes I've lied and stolen music on the internet. Was it morally ok? Probably not. But if lying is always bad then are you telling me that you'd tell the truth to the Nazi officer looking for Jews you have hidden in your basement in 1944 France (hypothetically of course)? Morals and ethics are not yes or no questions, they are situational, and always have been. How is it God can give the commandment "thou shalt not murder," then instruct the Israelites to genocidally wipe out the Amalekites? There goes black and white morality out the door in the first book of the Bible.
Nicholas, you missed the point of the 2 examples. If your example were the case, my wife would die. Not because I had to choose one or the other, but because I could not "push" someone else in the way. Of course there are factors involved which aren't divulged in those experiments (what if the fat guy was someone you hated, or the guy next in line for your promotion, etc.?). The point of them is to show that we all have a mechanism for recognizing when it's just bad luck for 1 guy and murder of the other. In both cases, you're only killing 1 person, but the "situation" of "pushing" one of them makes it unpalatable to us. That's the same reason I couldn't push my mother to save my wife. Not because I don't love my wife, but because I wouldn't be able to "push" anybody else.
And, sorry, but Atheism is not about misunderstanding religion. Quite the opposite, actually. When you understand why you don't believe in Zeus, Thor, Loki, Hera, Odin, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Osiris, Isis, Ra, Set, Mithras, Zoroaster, Mother Goose, unicorns, trolls, goblins, bogeymen, and jolly green giants, you'll understand why Atheists don't believe in God. You can spend 2 seconds deciding whether or not to believe in the above listed fairytales and former gods, and even understand why you don't, but when asked to examine your own religion the same way, you give it special status even though it falls into the same category of "things I can't see or prove."
Gotta get to work. Back with more later. Thanks for sharing your thoughts guys.
Josh: [this is where the website's contents are posted. Here's the link: http://www.gotquestions.org/correct-religion.html.]
Josh: [ME], I borrowed this from a website, because i think it responds to the issue of 'which God is correct amongst thousands' rather well. I will respond more later, as I have to get to work, but I'd recommend two books for you if you are interested in something that may be cognitively challenging for you. Dawkins has some pretty powerful arguments, no doubt, but most have been rebutted.
Anyway, the book are:
Jesus Among Other gods, By: Ravi Zacharias... See More
Mere Christianity, By: C.S. Lewis - This book responds well to your morality argument.
ME: Josh, thanks for that. I could use the mental exercise of swatting this punching bag. Please provide me the link for this website because I feel compelled to write the author an email shaming him for his blatant misuse of logic. The leaps of logic inherent within the above account are almost too numerous to count or respond to. As a result, it will take me a while to formulate my response adequately, so please grant me some time to look up a few useful sites and consult with my academic sources.
BTW, I read C.S. Lewis's book a few years back. Found it compelling, no doubt. But filled with the same logical inconsistencies as the above narrative you provided. I'll look into the other book you mentioned. In the meantime, let me share with you my booklist:
- Godless, by Dan Barker (a former evangelical preacher and faith healer)
- Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
- Story of B, by Daniel Quinn
(read these last two back-to-back for a compelling narrative about the human species and religion).
To be continued...
ME: I have a problem with the list of information you find necessary to evaluate religion. Nonetheless, I will play by your rules and step into the arena of your choice to make my point. I will do this step-by-step, as you have done, and take swipes at each claim you (or, this website) make singularly. Bear in mind, however, that since the narrative you provided has a linear path, where one previous assumption must hold true for the others to follow, remember that each disputation becomes greater the farther down the string of arguments we go. This comes back to the “argument of accumulation” mentioned by Richard Dawkins in one of my previous posts the other day.
Let’s start with your claims:
1. Logical consistency – “the claims of a belief system must logically cohere to one another and not contradict in any way.”
The Bible has no contradictions. This is an oft-repeated argument I hear from religionists and it has absolutely no weight. I’ll give a brief list just to prove a point, there are many more:
1) Do children suffer for their father’s sins?
- Yes. “Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.” (Isaiah 14:21)
- No. “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deut. 24:16)
2) What were Jesus’ last words?
- “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, 50)
- “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
- “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
(Some eyewitnesses these guys were!)
3) Does God tempt man?
- Yes. “And it came to pass that God did tempt Abraham.” (Gen. 22:1)
- No. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, nor tempteth he any man.” (James 1:13)
4) Who bears guilt?
- “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
- “For every man shall bear his own burden.” (Galatians 6:6)
5) Do you answer a fool?
- No. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” (Proverbs 26:4)
- Yes. “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” (Proverbs 26:5)
Strange how you never see these contradictions, or point them out, during Bible study.
Back to the Framework:
2. Empirical adequacy – Yes, it is right to want evidence for strong claims. I agree. But invisible evidence is not evidence. It is your imagination.
3. Existential relevancy – “the belief system must conform to reality as we know it, and it must make a meaningful difference in the life of the adherent.”
- What is reality as we know it? In the last 50 years humans have discovered that what we can touch, taste, smell, and hear is actually less than 1 billionth of reality due to the vast electromagnetic spectrum (I got this from an Incubus song, believe it or not). We only get to experience a small sample of reality; therefore, our understanding of it is extremely limited.
- Also, any belief system that compels a person to action, whether for good or ill, is making a meaningful difference in the life of that adherent. If that action was murder, your life will change significantly when you’re thrown in prison. If the action is to sell all your possessions and wander the earth preaching about your way of life, that also will alter your personal dynamics drastically. Agreed?
“deism does not impact anyone on a day-to-day manner.”
- Bulls**t. Anyone who finds wonder in nature and reserves reverence for an unknown, but distant, higher power typically possesses a want or desire to find and meet that power, which leads them into making great scientific discoveries to advance our species to try and reach that ability. Of course, not necessarily, but your matter-of-fact statement is a false generalization of a group of people you know little about.
ME: Second lesson, responding to your second message. Step-by-step let’s review your questions of logic.
1. Does absolute truth exist?
- Your statement should be made to say not that all truth is relative, but that “all truth derived from subjective questions is relative.” Questions which cannot be answered without evidence are subjective questions which have no absolute answers. “Does God exist?” is a subjective question because there is no evidence outside of theology, metaphysics, and philosophy. You can only “deduce” that God exists through skewed attempts at logic like that provided in your messages. There is no hard, physical evidence for God (which you concede when claiming him as “supernatural” and “immaterial”), which makes any argument about him relative to the persons involved. This makes environment a heavy influence in your decisions regarding theology.
“If one belief system has components which are proven true, then any belief system with contrary claims must be false.”
- So it doesn’t bother you that of the 3 monotheisms you listed above as the only real options, 2 of them go against Christianity? That 2 of them say that God does not beget and is not begotten? That Christianity is rife with internal contradictions and, according to your own logic, belief systems should have zero of them? Think objectively for 2 seconds (if you can). Which religion came first? Which religion came last? Which religions can claim a distinct ethnic and linguistic group as their own? Both Judaism and Islam are home-grown expressions of a troubled people. Christianity is a hodge-podge mixture of paganism, pantheism and Judaism catered to fit the fickle needs of the Roman Empire at the time of internal divisiveness. But I’ll get to that later.
“the answer of question one is that absolute truth exists. This being the case, agnosticism, postmodernism, relativism, and skepticism are all false positions.”
- As I understand it, none of these things are really “positions,” per se. Skepticism is a way of thinking critically. Nothing more. Relativism, while acknowledging some philosophical flaws, simply agrees with Socrates’ position when he said “All I know for sure is that I know nothing.” A statement which contradicts itself, sure, but is meant as a thought-exercise which forces you to question everything (the Socratic Method). You missed the point of it, which is: THINK! (Descartes springs to mind).
2. Do reason and religion mix?
“One of the core laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction which says something cannot be both “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same sense. Applying this law to the claims Judaism, Islam, and Christianity means that one is right and the other two are wrong.”
- Or, what this means is that 2 are right and 1 is wrong. Or that all are wrong. The author of this site automatically leaps for Christianity after confusing and misusing the second law of logic. He assumes, “since I don’t like A and B, but I do like C, C must be right.” Why wouldn’t a Muslim make the same case? Why wouldn’t a Jew? Or a member of any other faith? This is where YOUR ENVIRONMENT comes into play. You choose the option which doesn’t sound foreign to you as the one you’ll support. But rarely do you consider the possibility that MAYBE ALL OF THEM ARE WRONG!
“Logic shows that the proper illustration of a search for spiritual truth is more like a maze – one path makes it through to truth, while all others arrive at dead ends.”
- Wrong. To examine logic, you must use logic - which is self-defeating. Logic does not show this unless you have used it to show this. Which means that your (mis)use of logic is guided by your presuppositions. You want Christianity to be true, therefore you bend logic to fit your conclusions instead of honestly asking questions and seeking the available evidence for answers… and rejecting answers which have no evidence to support them (i.e. Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, leprochauns, trolls, and last but not least GOD).
3. Does God exist?
“why do we have something rather than nothing at all?”
- This argument is like a bad chain mail. Often repeated by suckers who are convinced by it, and always meaningless in any context. If I performed a magic trick in front of you and you said “Wow, how did you do that?” and I said “Magic.” Will you then say “Oh, now I get how it’s done.”? Or will you make the observation that I have avoided answering your question? You can apply this same logic with God. Saying “it’s magic,” or “it’s God,” does not answer the question, because this is something which cannot be examined.
BTW, the Big Bang does not say that the universe began from nothing. Just that our current universe has a common starting point. That is not to say that it wasn’t caused by a Big Crunch of a previously existing universe in an ever expanding/contracting cycle of cosmological bodies. Taking only a rudimentary skim of a theory as complex as the Big Bang and explaining it away without understanding it, is a bad use of critical theory and logic. It only betrays your lack of imagination. The start of the universe is not broken into A or B (Big Bang or God), it is broken into potentially millions of possibilities which we haven’t even thought of. Disproving one does not automatically prove another, it just disproves that one. It is a leap of logic to assume otherwise.
“all scientific evidence points to the fact that the universe had a beginning. And everything that has a beginning has a cause; therefore, the universe had a cause and is not eternal. Because the only two sources of an eternity are an eternal universe (proven to be untrue) and an eternal Creator, the only logical conclusion is that God exists.”
- All scientific evidence does not say this. Do I really need to repeat the argument I just gave? See above. Saying “because it’s not A it must be B,” is wrong for the reasons already listed. Please study science more deeply before making such claims.
“This rules out pantheistic religions”
- No it doesn’t. You just want it to.
ME: Interesting things we learn about God (from your messages):
1 – “He is supernatural.” So you mean he doesn’t exist in nature? Nature means “the Universe.” If he doesn’t exist in the universe, how can he interact with the universe? For example, while reading a novel, if you don’t like how the story is going, can you reach into the novel and change the characters or the plot? No, because you don’t exist in the world of the novel. Since you do not exist in that world, you cannot interact with it.
2 – “He is incredibly powerful.” He may be, but if he is supernatural he can’t do anything with that power.
- “He is Omnipresent.” Then how is he supernatural? If he is present, then we can locate him. If we can locate him, what’s the need for faith? I don’t have faith in a building because I don’t have to have faith, I can see it with my own two eyes.
- “He is timeless and changeless.” Again, he may be. But if he doesn’t exist in our universe, then what does it matter?
- “He is immaterial.” There you go repeating yourself. Isn’t that the same as supernatural?
- “He is personal (the impersonal can’t create personality)” Nonsense. By your own logic, if God has personality then something had to create him. Who created God?
- “He is necessary.” It is questionable whether an invisible, yet all present being, existing outside of our universe, is a necessary to maintain our universe. Where is your proof? I want evidence.
- “He is infinite and singular (Since you cannot have 2 infinites).” Says who? Why can’t there be 2 million infinites? What proof do you have for the number of infinites which are “allowed” to exist? Oh, that’s right, you have your religion which says that. Could it be that this assumption is a product of wishful thinking, making a statement which will exclude any other religion from the club? This assumption doesn’t belong in this list. Nothing that you have presented so far gives any evidence for the inability of 2 infinites to coexist. This one can, therefore, be thrown out.
- “Diverse yet has unity.” Same thing. Stop trying to superimpose a “trinity god” into your logical structure with no supporting evidence or argument.
- “He is intelligent.” If supreme intelligence is needed to create something as complex as the universe, then what created the supreme intelligence. This assumption “begs the question.” This is a misuse of logic. Try again.
- “He is purposeful.” How do you know our creation wasn’t an accident? Maybe he farted and “poof” here we are. Where is your proof? Again, false assumption. Thrown out.
- “He is moral.” Morality, as I’ve already stated, is situational. For God to be moral he must be a part of situational decisions. Since he is apparently supernatural and immaterial, he therefore doesn’t exist in our universe. If he doesn’t exist, what does it matter if he is moral?
- “He is caring.” Again, what does it matter if he doesn’t exist in our realm of reality? He can care all he wants. I know I cared about Frodo in the Lord of the Rings book trilogy, but it doesn’t mean I could do anything to change the course of his quest.
ME: part 4: Can we know God?
“If man is to know God well He must reveal Himself to His creation”
- Makes one think of “supernatural” and “immaterial,” no? If God can reveal himself, he is not immaterial. If God can reveal himself, he is not supernatural. If he is not immaterial or supernatural, he can be found by science. If he can be found by science, why have faith?
- “Pushing aside minor differences the 2 core areas of dispute are 1) The New Testament and the Bible, and 2) the person of Jesus Christ.”
- Sorry, but those are not the 2 core areas of dispute for all 3 religions. Those are the areas of dispute between the other 2 religions and Christianity. Please present this more honestly. The dispute between Islam and Judaism has nothing to do with the New Testament or Jesus. This is your attempt (or the website’s author’s attempt) to covertly maneuver Christianity to the top of a monotheistic pyramid through semantics, and is yet another poor use of logic. I’m calling shenanigans.
- “no faith on the planet that can match the mountain of evidence that exist for Christianity.”
- As I myself am not well versed in the historical evidence for Christianity, I will rely on another theologian who is.
Dan Barker (author of the book I recommended earlier) says that he once, when he was young and a practicing evangelical, took a course on “Christian Evidences” but at the time of taking it thought it unnecessary. He made the assumption that “Christian scholars had already done the homework and that our faith rested on a firm historical foundation, and that if I ever needed to look it up I could turn to some book somewhere for the facts. I just never needed to look it up. But when I became a freethinker, I did decide to look it up and was very surprised at what I found – or more precisely, at what I didn’t find. I am now convinced that the Jesus story is a combination of myth and legend, mixed with a little bit of real history unrelated to Jesus. Here’s what I found out: 1) there is no external historical confirmation for the New Testament stories, 2) The New Testament stories are internally contradictory, 3) There are natural explanations for the origin of the Jesus legend, and 4) The miracle reports make the story unhistorical.” (Godless, pp. 251-252).
I can say this, however, as my own point of view. I live in Israel right now. My home is in Tel Aviv. I’ve been here for 4 years, studying for my MA in Middle Eastern History for 2 years. I’ve been on innumerable tours of this country and all of its holy sites. All of them are presented with a disclaimer by the tour guide (even the Christian ones) that, “This is the location where (fill in the blank with a Bible story), but please bear in mind that it was chosen by Constantine’s mother, Catherine the Great, during one of her visits here following the declaration of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, and likely represents an arbitrary decision to just “name a place” in order to document it.” I’ve been told by many tour guides and religious scholars in this part of the world that there is actually very little archaeological evidence to support Christianity except those that were artificially selected by Roman authorities during its early years. And, after seeing these sites, I believe these people. Nothing suggests that what is written in the New Testament was/is real.
- “very early dating of the documents written during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses…”
- You do know that the earliest writings of the New Testament date to roughly the year 70-85 CE, right? That Jesus was supposedly crucified between 21-30 CE? That life expectancy was about 30-40 years old in the Roman Empire, and, as a result, “eyewitness accounts” written 35-50 years later were likely NOT “eyewitness accounts”? The only New Testament books written by anyone in a position to have actually seen Jesus were those written by Paul (dating to roughly 40-55 CE), but he claims numerous times to have never met Jesus in person. Additionally, we do not possess the original version of any book of the New Testament. We contain copies of copies of translations of translations. No originals. Any historian can tell you, this does not bode well for Christianity’s historical authenticity.
- Your point: archaeological evidence that never contradicts New Testament claims.
- If by archaeological evidence you mean the archaeological location of Nazareth or Bethlehem. The existence of a place called Jerusalem. A lake called the Galilee. And the general physical description and layout of Israel. Then yes, archaeological evidence supports the New Testament. How do you find archaeological evidence to support Jesus healing the blind or raising the dead? Or giving a sermon on the mount? Where are these events recorded outside of the Bible (which we’ve already established was not likely written by eyewitnesses)?
- Your claim: Apostles went to their deaths claiming they had seen Jesus in action.
- Allegedly. Where is the externally supporting evidence for these claims? Roman records of their execution? Descriptions of their deaths by outside sources? I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m saying I haven’t come across them. If you have them, please share them. I’d love to read about it.
- Your claim: Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh.
- He also claimed not to be good, or God. (“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:18). And we come back once more to “Bible Contradictions.”
- Your claim: If Jesus is God then everything he says must be true.
- If I am in Israel, then everything I write in Facebook must be true, because I wrote it from the Holy Land. Because I wrote this, it must be true since, obviously, I am in Israel. This is uncritical thinking. If a book claims truth, and its claim to truth is that it says it’s true, it’s probably not. If it were true, it wouldn’t have to say it was true. It’s claims would be self-evident.
“True belief is a matter of the will, and no matter how much logical evidence is presented” some will still deny God.
- Belief is NOT a matter of will. By that logic I can will myself into believing in Santa Claus. I do believe, I do believe, I do believe, I do believe, I do believe, I do believe….. did it work? Aw shucks, apparently not. My will-power must not be that refined or holy. Right? Belief is a matter of evidence and convincing oneself that the evidence is significant. If you suspect that something may not be true, you naturally reserve judgment. You don’t declare it as true or false until you have more information. Which means your beliefs (should) evolve as you obtain more knowledge. As a child you believe in bogeymen, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth fairy, and others, mainly because people in authority convince you to believe in them, but as you grow older and gain more knowledge you learn to dismiss them as unreal. You convince yourself of their reality as a child, and you convince yourself of their unreality as an adult. Why not apply that same method to everything? For what you have solid evidence for, believe in it. For what you are missing evidence for, reserve judgment. This is critical-thinking/skepticism 101.
“Most of Dawkins’ arguments have been rebutted.”
- If your messages represent the rebuttal to Richard Dawkins, then no, they haven’t been rebutted. They’ve been attacked, sure. But not rebutted.
ME: I'll close with one last idea to chew on before you respond. If Jesus said that everything in the Bible was true, what book was he talking about? The New Testament wasn't written when Jesus was alive.
Josh: let me ask you a quick question: Is there any type of "proof" or, what you would perceive as "logical" arguments that you would even accept in regard to the existence of God??
Josh: Also, the majority of alleged bible contradictions have been refuted. There are several books on this topic, as well as websites (for example, http://atheismexposed.tripod.com/bible_contradictions.htm). Several of the contradictions you mentioned can be explained here or elsewhere. You may not except the explanations, but they are there.
ME: Thanks for the links, I'll definitely check them out when I have more time. If I knew of logical arguments which I would accept, don't you think I would have accepted them by now? Don't mistake me for somebody who hasn't done his research, or who is angry at God, or is damaged in some way. I'm none of those things. I'm somebody who approached religion with an open mind and these are the conclusions I've come to after much thought and research. It wasn't an easy decision. I'm also from a Christian family and grew up just north of the Bible Belt (Missouri). Changing my mind about God was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, but I'm truly happier for it. And, as with most personal revelations, I feel the need to talk about it, just as all of you do with your faith. But I don't call mine a "faith" mainly because it's not, but also because if you do have a compelling argument, I'll gladly change back. I don't blindly follow mine. I just accept it because it makes the most sense. But as I said, our beliefs evolve as we discover more information.
Now let me return the question: what arguments would you accept to de-convert you from Christianity? What proof would be required?
As Tom would say, "Your turn."
Josh: Well [ME], to be honest with you I don't see my paradigms changing in regard to the existence of God. I'm a firm believer in what atheists refer to as the "watchmaker argument." Nothing can come from nothing, and therefore, I feel God exists. Christianity makes the most sense to me: I'm a person who has committed moral crimes against God, and nothing I can do can take those crimes away. I could strive to be good and do good all I want, but that doesn't dismiss my crimes. There is a fine that has to be paid. Either I pay it myself, or I trust that Christ paid that fine for me with his life's blood. Then I repent and strive to live according to His commands.
I was not raised in a devout Christian home. I used to be agnostic and began researching religion on my own in my later teen years. I've been a Christian for7 years now and I've seen God do amazing things, so I don't feel that I'm blindly following anything. I've seen the hardest of hearts turn, and these people have ceased their pursuit of life destroying sins, and began living for a cause that is much greater than themselves. I've seen an exorcism firsthand, and had some personal experiences with God that I could never deny. Sure, I could try to reason them away, but deep down I know God is real and at work.
I've taken some intense debate classes at a very liberal college and heard several arguments, including many from Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, as well as others. Some arguments have been thought provoking, no doubt. But, I don't think there is any argument strong enough to overshadow my experiences and observations.
ME: I'm sorry but I don't think "feelings" and "personal experiences warrant an argument.
All of humanity once "felt" the earth was flat. All of humanity once "felt" that the earth was the center of the universe. They knew it in their bones! The fibre of their being. Science proved them wrong. People used to believe they heard voices (still do)... perhaps the voice of God. Science has shown that the mind has complex structures which consciousness tries to explain in the only way it knows how = to mimic sounds and visions it is already familiar with. The interpretation is then left to the individual and his religio-cultural slant.
The language you use to describe your feelings about religion and God are unique to Christianity. Jews and Muslims don't talk about being dirty sinners. Jews and Muslims don't see a need for exorcism. Jews and Muslims don't talk about "hard hearts" and "Christ's life's blood." This is unique to the Christian cult. You were convinced that you were dirty. You have been told that you are a filthy sinner that does not deserve redemption. But, here comes the "aha", Christianity has the cure. They have cut you, in order to sell you a band-aid. They convinced you that you were unclean in order to sell you a bar of soap. This is nonsense. This is indoctrination. This is brainwashing. And it needs to be recognized as such.
Go ahead and continue believing and having faith. No one's stopping you. But at least recognize that your argument is empty and you have to rely on "personal experiences" and "feelings" to explain yourself. And surely "he just doesn't get it," is how you'll explain this conversation to everyone else. But see, that's the problem. I do get it. I was once there myself. I understand what Christianity "feels" like. I also know that once you drop this myth of being dirty and unclean and unworthy, life becomes far more beautiful and meaningful, and your self-worth and confidence sky-rockets.
What you've basically told me is this: "No, I don't really want to think. I trust what I think I've seen and interpreted it in a way which fits the culture I'm a part of. Therefore, I'm content with believing that I'm a terrible person, when really I'm not. But at least I'm 'saved' according to the rules laid down in my 2,000 year old book as I interpret it, no matter how much I really don't understand it."
Please think for yourself, people, for your own sake.
"Only sheep need a shepherd."
Josh: [ME], If a rational discussion incorporates rudeness and arrogance to prove a point, than you are doing a phenominal job, sir! The truth is that you are no more "rational" than I am. The only difference between us is that you claim to be. Both of us have taken a stand and it would take something monumental for us to change our minds...Well, in your case, you claim that " a compelling argument" will cause you to change your views (even though you seem to reason every argument away, or dismiss it as illogical). I differ from you in that a strong argument won't change my mind. Arguments won't overshadow my observations and experiences. A compelling argument works for you, and this has good and bad aspects to it. Everybody is impacted by arguments to some extent, but there has to come a point where you stand strong on a conclusion. 5+5=10, that is not something that can be rationalized. For me, due to my OBSERVATIONS and experiences, I conclude that there is a God, and I'm not being any more irrational in my conclusion than I would be by concluding that 5+5=10. There are things that Science cannot tell us, and we have to reach our conclusions about such things. You and I just happen to take different stances - That is not being irrational.
Your indoctrination claim is quite hilarious, because anything that a person learns and attributes to their life, or ideology, can be deemed "indoctrination". So, how is your view any different? You have learned from others, and adopted a view against all religion (especially Christianity), and you're obviously are at war with it, because of the teachings you have adopted. How is that NOT indoctrination? How can you conclude that someone who adheres to the teachings in the bible doesn't "think for themselves", yet someone who adheres to the teachings of Richard Dawkins or Daniel Quinn does think for themselves?
Also, please explain to me how one can genuinely "think for themselves"? I'm not saying we are incapable of reaching conclusions, but we take in what we learn THROUGH PEOPLE, and think about and interpret that information, then do research and make our conclusions? If a person believes in God they ARE thinking for themselves - just as much as a person who doesn't. However, both cannot be correct. Just like 5+5 cannot equal both 10 and 7. There either is a God or their isn't. That is a black and white issue.
And to clarify, I never said that my "feelings" provided an argument! I said that, due to my observations and experiences, I feel (i.e. believe) God exists. Of course knowledge that I have acquired contributes to that, but you are not any different. Scientists can only know what they observe (i.e. evidence) and experience, and then they reach their conclusions accordingly. Do observations and experiences only work for scientists?
Do you think brilliant scientists that believe in God, such as Alister McGrath (Author: "The Dawkins Delusion", also teaches at Oxford) and Francis Collins (Author: "The Language of God", behind the discovery of the Human Genome), cannot think for themselves and only trust their feelings? If so, their line of work seems to show quite the opposite.
ME: "Both of us have taken a stand and it would take something monumental for us to change our minds...Well, in your case, you claim that " a compelling argument" will cause you to change your views (even though you seem to reason every argument away, or dismiss it as illogical). I differ from you in that a strong argument won't change my mind. Arguments won't overshadow my observations and experiences."
- I've reasoned every argument away because they weren't compelling arguments. Think about this for a moment: If I can reason arguments away, are they really that compelling? As a person who has had numerous conversations like this I can tell you that there is a natural evolution of the argument between religionists and non-religionists. That conversational evolution is present in pure form in this discussion from start to finish. After the believer presents dozens of "proofs" and "arguments" for God, the non-believer rationalizes and reasons them away, at which point the believers turn to personal experiences and feelings. This ALWAYS happens because, in the end, you don't really have a solid case. If you did, you'd present it.
It's easy to claim that your personal experiences are real and indisputable. We can't go back in time and see them for ourselves. We can't observe what you observed. We can't test your hypothesis and just "have to take your word for it."
Each time I hear an argument, I have to pause for a moment and think. I don't just blurt out some pre-programmed response. I sit and ponder. I look up sources. I re-read things I've read in the past. I try breaking down the argument into smaller pieces. I try seeing the whole of it. I even consult the dictionary to make sure I properly understand the meaning of the words used by the arguer. In many instances, this has made me appear as a heckler or a crank to those I argue with. You want to believe in magic, but I keep pointing out how the magician is pulling off the trick, thereby reducing the awe and wonder of what's taking place. Why can't I just let you people be happy, you ask. And that's what your position of "feelings" and "observations" comes down to. You saw magic, and want to believe in it. I'm being "rude" and "arrogant" by pointing out that it's a trick.
You say a strong argument won't change your mind? How sad. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, I would rather change my opinion in the face of evidence than persist in delusion, no matter how reassuring. If you could be made to see that your observations were perhaps misapprehensions, would that not make you rethink your positions? This makes me think of a subject picked up by Carl Sagan in his book "The Demon Haunted World." (I remembered reading it, but had to look it up for the exact quote). He is discussing the UFO stories he was asked to look into. After a chapter he dedicates to "Hallucinations" (pp. 97-111), he switches to UFO stories. Here's what he had to say:
"Perhaps when everyone knows that gods come down to Earth [as in pagan times], we hallucinate gods; when all of us are familiar with demons [Medieval ages], it's incubi and succubi; when fairies are widely accepted [Renaissance/pre-Enlightenment era], we see fairies; in an age of spiritualism [early-mid 20th century], we encounter spirits; and when the old myths fade and we begin thinking that extraterrestrial beings are plausible [20th century], then that's where our hypnogogic imagery tends...Think of the power of repetitive imagery in advertising, especially to suggestible viewers and readers. It can make us believe almost anything - even that smoking cigarettes is cool. In our time, putative aliens are the subject of innumerable science fiction stories, novels, TV dramas, and films. UFOs are a regular feature of the weekly tabloids devoted to falsification and mystification. One of the highest-grossing motion pictuers of all time is about aliens very like those described by abductees... In contrast, we hear very little lately about incubi, elves, and fairies. Where have they all gone?" (Demon-Haunted World, pp. 130-131).
He continues a few pages later, "Despite this apparent variety of extraterrestrials, the UFO abduction syndrome portrays, it seems to me, a banal Universe. The form of the supposed aliens is marked by a failure of the imagination and a preoccupation with human concerns. Not a single being presented in all these accounts is as astonishing as a cockatoo would be if you had never before held a bird. Any protozoology or bacteriology or mycology textbook is filled with wonders that far outshine the most exotic descriptions of the alien abductionists. The believers take the common elements in their stories as tokens of versimilitude, rather than as evidence that they have contrived their stories out of a shared culture and biology." (p. 133).
I'll continue with the next message. I'm not done.
ME: "Your indoctrination claim is quite hilarious, because anything that a person learns and attributes to their life, or ideology, can be deemed "indoctrination". So, how is your view any different? You have learned from others, and adopted a view against all religion (especially Christianity), and you're obviously are at war with it, because of the ... See Moreteachings you have adopted. How is that NOT indoctrination?"
- This is where a dictionary comes in handy. Indoctrination: To instruct in a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased beleif or point of view.
I was raised in the Mid-West. My family was Christian. I attended Church my entire childhood and young adult life. And yet today I'm not buying it. I WAS indoctrinated into Christianity (as were/are you). Only later did I realize it as indoctrination and changed my opinions. It wasn't easy. In fact it was damn hard. Understanding the history and teachings, philosophy and theology, and logical structure of religion (yes, especially Christianity) is a monstrous task, yet I have done a lot of work and concluded (at this point) that it doesn't make sense. Even after being raised to think like a Christian, it still doesn't make sense. I spent a number of years researching the hell out of religion, I even moved to Israel (where I preside currently), still... nothing.
Am I at war with Christianity? Seriously? Because I disagree with you, I'm apparently trying to destroy your religion? This is nothing more than a cheap-shot tactic trying to curry favor with those Christians who are following alone. Have you not read a single word I've written?? I keep repeating, over and over and over, BELIEVE WHATEVER YOU WANT, HAVE FAITH IN WHATEVER YOU WANT, BUT PLEASE UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU BELIEVE. If you have to rely on personal feelings to explain your ideology, then you don't understand your ideology. Period. But, if you have a compelling argument PLEASE SHARE IT. Here I am. A "lost soul," someone you could try to "win for Christ." Yet you keep failing to present me anything worth thinking about. You have failed to present any arguments that I haven't heard dozens of times before, and which always fall short of a simple logical test.
As with the UFO stories Carl Sagan described, you've been raised to think like a Christian while living in a Christian world. Bombarded by it. Naturally, when you come across some unexplainable phenomena you turn to Jesus to explain it. To quote Sagan again: "The believers take the common elements in their stories as tokens of versimilitude, rather than as evidence that they have contrived their stories out of a shared culture and biology." If you had been raised in Saudi Arabia, you'd be Muslim and would talk about Muhammad endlessly. Had you been raised in India, you'd probably be Hindu and would burn incense to Krishna every Wednesday. Had you been born in Tibet, you'd be a Buddhist monk sitting and meditating for hours a day. Had you been raised in Kfar Saba, Israel, you'd probably be Jewish and wear a kippa/yamaka everywhere you went. Yet you still wouldn't grasp that it's the result of a common culture and biology that you do these things.
And no, I'm not done....
ME: "And to clarify, I never said that my "feelings" provided an argument! I said that, due to my observations and experiences, I feel (i.e. believe) God exists. Of course knowledge that I have acquired contributes to that, but you are not any different. Scientists can only know what they observe (i.e. evidence) and experience, and then they reach their conclusions accordingly. Do observations and experiences only work for scientists?"
- You never said your feelings provided an argument, yet you are arguing that your feelings (i.e. beliefs) are your argument. Care to try that again?
Scientists do not perform one experiment and then form a conclusion. They repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, and then publish their findings for others to repeat, repeat, repeat. Only when many have repeated an experiment over and over and over do they begin to formulate the findings into a scientific discovery. For this to hold true with your observations and experiences, you'd have to be able to repeat each experience over and over again, and then let others experience those same events over and over. Only then would your experiences and observations count as something real and verified. Since each thing you've experienced is likely a one-off event, no, it doesn't count. Sorry. I don't make the rules.
"Do you think brilliant scientists that believe in God, such as Alister McGrath (Author: "The Dawkins Delusion", also teaches at Oxford) and Francis Collins (Author: "The Language of God", behind the discovery of the Human Genome), cannot think for themselves and only trust their feelings? If so, their line of work seems to show quite the opposite."
- Do you believe people are fallible? Yes, Dawkins could be wrong. But so could Msrs. McGrath and Collins. So could all of them. True, some scientists believe in God. But the majority don't. Surveys have shown time and time again that when intelligence and religious belief are compared there tends to be an inverse relationship (as intelligence goes up, religious belief goes down, and vice versa). Surely there's something to this, no? The leaps in logic required to make you accept miracles, virgin births, and supernatural realms is no different than the leaps in logic required to convince you that fairies, goblins, trolls, and leprochauns are real. You can't prove they're not. But you can't prove they are either. If I said, "I can fly, prove I can't." You wouldn't go about trying to explain or prove that I couldn't, you'd probably respond with "Prove you can." I don't claim a supernatural entity with no supporting evidence exists, you do. It's not my job to prove he doesn't exist, it's your job to prove he does.
All it really comes down to is how you decide to think about these subjects. You can either 1) start with a conclusion and work backwards picking and choosing information to fit that conclusion (which is what you've done), or 2) you can ask a question and follow the available evidence and see where it really leads. If you go with No. 2, as I have, the discoveries you would come across would likely blow your mind. There are so many things that I would have never learned if I hadn't taken off the "blinders" that religion imposes on all of us. And it does. It really does. But you never realize this until you see them as blinders and make the decision to remove them.
Now I'm done. Maybe...
ME: Sorry, one last thing. I just want to re-emphasize this point I just wrote above:
"It's not my job to prove he doesn't exist, it's your job to prove he does."
This entire conversation I have yet to say "God doesn't exist." No where have I made any affirmative or negative statements. All I have done up to now is point out the logical inconsistencies in everyone's arguments for God's existence. I am still searching for answers. I am still somewhat "undecided" when it comes to religion. But if there was a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being Militant Atheist, 10 being Militant Fundamentalist) I'd probably place myself around 3 or 4 (closer to 3).
I'm waiting for you "faithful believers" to convince me that what you believe isn't a delusion. Because so far, I'm pertty much convinced that it is. That's not to say that it doesn't compel you to do great things or be good people. That's not to say it doesn't comfort you in times of despair and great need. Maybe it does. But that doesn't make it true. That's all I'm saying.
Take from this what you want.
[CONVERSATION CONTINUES IN THE NEXT ARTICLE DUE TO A 100,000 CHARACTER LIMIT]