Hi, everyone.

My goal here is not to argue that Christianity is true, but that I'm reasonable to be a Christian. I don't care if you agree with me about Christianity, but I do want to persuade you that I'm not stupid, crazy, insane, or in any other epistemically lamentable state, for being a Christian. What follows is a sketch that I can expand as people ask reasonable questions.

Keeping this as short as reasonably possible, I'm a Christian because I think that God exists and that God resurrected Jesus. As Pascal suggested, if I think both of these claims are probably true, then it makes sense for me to foster a belief in the Christian religion by going to church, praying, and so on. Christianity will be the "best bet" in that event, such that it will make more sense for me to foster a belief in Christianity than to foster a belief in another religion or foster no belief in any religion. So, the question is whether or not I can justify my belief that both of these claims are probably true.

My justification for my belief that God exists is an inductive argument for the existence of God which it isn't easy to express briefly, so I won't try. However, I will say that it pulls on the following versions of the following arguments.

(1) A cosmological argument from the existence of a complex physical universe
(2) A teleological argument from temporal regularity
(3) A teleological argument from spatial regularity, or "fine tuning"
(4) An argument from beauty
(5) An argument from moral awareness
(6) An argument from consciousness
(7) An argument from our ability to make significant decisions, or "providence"
(8) An argument from miracles
(9) An argument from history

The above arguments come together to form a cumulative case which I think is sufficient to justify the following.

(10) Therefore, it is at least as likely as not that God exists.

I then introduce the following propositions.

(11) If X is as likely as not to exist based on the other evidence, and if additionally I have an experience that seems to be of X, then X probably exists.
(12) I have had experiences that seemed to be of God.

So, from (1)-(9) I inductively infer (10), and from (10), (11) and (12) I deductively infer that God probably exists.

I have my belief that God exists based on the above arguments, but I have my belief in the Resurrection partly in the basic way. The idea of a properly basic belief takes off from the observation that we all have to begin building our structure of knowledge from certain plausible assumptions, and to me, one of these assumptions is that the Resurrection occurred. This, in combination with my belief that God would have reason to resurrect Christ if he had the moral character displayed in the Gospels, seems to me to warrant a belief that God probably resurrected Jesus.

So, given that I think God probably exists and that God probably resurrected Jesus, it's reasonable for me to cultivate a belief in the Christian religion by the methods suggested by Pascal.

Views: 930

Comment by Logicallunatic on May 30, 2012 at 2:50pm

I see a lot of debunked arguments but no evidence. It's business as per usual! Back to square one and round and round we go like a merry go round. But hey, it's still a fun ride. 

Comment by CJoe on May 30, 2012 at 3:36pm

HA! And all of my Christian life I believed God just had, like, 15 or more names. I've heard "El Shaddai" before, but didn't realize it had roots in another religion. That doesn't surprise me considering most of Jesus' story is rooted in Greek mythology.

Comment by Seymour Eliot on May 30, 2012 at 4:19pm

Do you think it's reasonable to worship violent mentalities because believing in the christian god gives you advantages (according to yourself)?


My point is that even if any of the gods humans invented- were real, it still wouldn't be morally acceptable to support them. The christian god is homophobic, misogynistic and otherwise violent. If you're going to place a bet on a religion, at least make it one that doesn't condone atrocities.

Here is ZJ's video on Pascal's Wager: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNcWdV0LYG4&feature=plcp

Comment by Sagacious Hawk on May 30, 2012 at 4:43pm


"That doesn't surprise me considering most of Jesus' story is rooted in Greek mythology."

You totally validated my own opinion there. I've thought this for awhile, and considering the Hellenistic influence of the region that Christianity grew in, it only made sense to me that there would be concepts analogous to Greek mythology, but I've never heard anyone mention it before. 

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on May 30, 2012 at 4:50pm

Hi William – I and most Atheists I know don’t consider most reasonable Christians to be stupid or insane. However I would consider the fundamentalists of all beliefs hold an unreasonable faith.

I am glad you used the word “Argument” rather than the word “Evidence” to list your points. It is a distinction that needs clarification from the start.

I will just address a few points here.

Point 8on Miracles: When reports of something that is not immediately explicable happen is it more likely that the laws of nature or the laws of physics have been temporarily suspended or that the reports are erroneous or false. I would apply the razor of your namesake here.

Point 4 on Beauty: Do you mean “order” here. It is just a subjective view. By saying that nature is “beautiful” does not imply it is designed. If we can explain the workings of Nature it is irrelevant if we evaluate it as beautiful. Nature if not interested in beauty. It is fine that beauty inspires our imagination but it is unreasonable to claim it is from a god when there are explanations that expand our understanding. Why say a rose is from god because we say it is beautiful but not the worm that eats away at children’s eyes in some parts of the world?

Pascal’s Wager: Would it not be better to adopt all the gods if you want to narrow the odds. It has been debunked too often on this site so I will just say it is not a very mature argument.

You claim you had experiences that seemed to be of god. That is completely subjective. It means nothing to anyone else except to. Offer some evidence as mentioned by others above. Of course you have none. After all of your inferences and deductions you at least say “that you think that god probably exists”. That may sound reasonable to you but to then contend that this god is a particular god rather than just a Deity is not reasonable. It is an assumption not based on any of the arguments or the inferences drawn from them. If you seriously consider Pascal’s wager enough to base your life’s outlook on I cannot take you seriously. It is such a childish argument. You do yourself an injustice by not challenging it further. Plantinga who contends that belief in god is rational must at least allow for any god to be the one to belief in.

Comment by CJoe on May 30, 2012 at 5:01pm


Oh yeah, the whole virgin birth thing is by no means original (or rather a god impregnating a woman who was a virgin up until that point), not to mention the demigod concept (ie Heracles... or the MANY others), or the sacrifice of said demigod for the sake of humans, Prometheus for one. Even if any of the components of the story were original, that by no means makes them non fiction, but Christianity is a bastardization of both Judaism and Greek mythology. Greek mythology helps make Jesus' story more appealing to pagans, and changing the religion to monotheism made the story more palatable to (some) Jews.

Comment by Arcus on May 30, 2012 at 5:46pm


I have previously laid a case based on game theory against Pascal's wager:

I would say a life devoted to God if there is no God to be a Big Loss, since you just spent your alotted eternity on him. If God grants eternal life, then your time on Earth doesn't matter if you are a believer, but you'll miss eternity completely if you don't believe you won't get it (Pascal didn't mention hell). However, you will still have +1 life. However, if this life is everything, then it is infinity for the individual. Perhaps not measured in years, but there are an infinite amount of moments. If one sets pre- and post existence to a value of 0, and life=x, then lim(x->0) 1/x = 1/0 = ∞
Believer Atheist
God Exists +infinity    +infinity
God Doesn't Exist -Infinity +infinity
The clearly optimal strategy is therefore to be an Atheist (assuming no eternal damnation).
Comment by Brian Daurelle on May 30, 2012 at 6:04pm

I'd like to jump in to the Cara Collene discussion that's been going on; I'll also use the points you listed at the begining.
(1) Cara Collene refuted your arguements against spatial regularity, temporal regularity and 'fine tuning' of the universe, all in one claim. You responded, in a nutshell, that the assumption of multiple universes to account for the specific, seemingly perfect features of our universe is at least as irrational or more irrational than positing the exsistance of a creator. Besides the fact that this is a regressive arguement which ultimately explains nothing (who created God?), there is a simple fact that resists your claim in response to Cara. The fact is that mathematicians have been brought to the idea of multiple universes through mathematical models, which were originally constructed to explain quantifiable phenomena and which imply the possibility of other universes. This is the basic feature of a good scientific theory; it can make robust predictions about things that weren't incorporated into its design. The multiverse theory is not, as you suggest, simply a secular alternative to the made-up solution of how/why the universe is the way it is. There were no scientists going around selling this idea, ever; it came into being via the implications of a particularly powerful set of theoretical concepts shown to have great bearing on the real, observable universe.

I feel claims four and five have sufficient answers in the realm of evolutionary biology (i.e. perception of beauty and a sense of morality have solidly verifiable evolutionary origins) and I would extend this logic to claim six as well. As any evolutionary biologist will tell you, there have been three or four major milestones in evolutionary history; the begining of self-replication heredity, which I sort of consider the same thing, hence the numbering; the begining of embryology and cumulative life forms (multicelled creatures which change over their lifetimes), and the begining of consciousness. In ever case, there is a solid line of darwinian reasoning which allows or necessitates the next step. No other adaptations, besides the two previous ones which all multicelular life now shares, have proven as sucessful on the playing field of natural selection as consciousness. Again, there is no need to posit a creator.

As for number seven, I am not sure how you mean to use the ability to make significant decisions as evidence for a creator, but I assure you that there is an evolutionary explanation for whatever phenomenon you're refering to.

Eight has been sufficiently rebuffed by others.

As for number nine, I would argue that history, and indeed the Bible itself, provides perhaps the clearest evidence that God is a human construct. As usual, my thinking on this matter is strongly influenced by the work of Robert Wright, whose application of Game Theory to history is most enlightening, particularly concerning the evolution of religion and concepts of God. Before you think I'm getting at the wrong point, I realize you meant 'history' more as 'an arguement from things like...great leaders', and that it's 'not a killer arguement by itself', but the arguement in the other direction IS a killer one. If we consider the true founder of Christianity, Paul of Tarsus, we certainly have an example of a great leader at work. Paul's epistles and other writings are often directly contradictory to the known views of Jesus, particularly on a subject such as universal brotherhood (Jesus wasn't for it, Paul was). This clearly can't be explained by inspiration from God; the answer lies in the fact that Paul was trying to create business network, wheras Jesus probably had no other goal than spreading his own deeply held beliefs. In the 'religious market' of ancient Rome in which Christianity competed for favor, it would have to improve on those aspects of Judaism that cause the Jews so much trouble, namely their exclusivity and their reticence to adapt to changing conditions of the world. Thus, with no words on the subject from Jesus, Paul preaced about universal love and brotherhood, the possibility of salvation for everyone, etc. The reason Pauline Christianity got such a firm hold, and eventually choked out every other strand through competition or violence, was that he was smart enough to see what his religion would need in order to flourish. He certainly qualifies, in my mind, as a great leader, no matter how much I disagree with his outcomes or methods. To this effect, and for many other reasons, I recommend the book 'The Evolution of God' by Robert Wright.
I also recommend 'God; The Failed Hypothesis' by Victor Stenger, which lays out a nice, logically sound framework for the premise that the existance of God is much more unlikely than likely.
Happy reading!

Comment by Doug Reardon on May 30, 2012 at 7:57pm

My position is that the whole concept of god, and especially the abrahamic god, is prima facie inane, rediculous, and absurd. 

Comment by Tim on May 30, 2012 at 8:27pm

Hi Folks, have you ever watched any of the Atheist Experience videos on youtube? The hosts on the show have heard all of the apologists arguments so many times that they keep a notebook with responses each argument. If we had a document like that stored on this website, when a theist posts "proofs" we could just refer him the document.


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