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.

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

@Segacious

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

@William:

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 archaeopteryx on May 30, 2012 at 5:46pm

@Sagacious Hawk - you can see a bit of the Jesus myth in the myth of Dionysus, but also in the Egyptian Horus.

Interestingly, it was the Greek conquest that kept the Hebrew religion from dying, like hundreds (if not thousands) of middle-Eastern religions before it. Prior to the Alexandrian conquest, one had citizenship rights only in the country in which one was born. Alexander made it possible for those conquered to become Greek citizens, and thus travel freely within the conquered area with full citizenship rights. Many Jews then migrated to Egypt, where some decided to translate the scriptures written, redacted and compiled in Hebrew into the Torah between 950 and 550 BCE, into Greek, which became the Septuagint. Later, the remaining scriptures were translated as well, and as most know, the New Testament was written entirely in Greek. The Greek conquest saved the Judeo/Christian religion from extinction.

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.

Comment by kris feenstra on May 30, 2012 at 8:29pm

That would be an efficient solution, Tim, but I think that would take the fun out of it all for many members.

Comment by John Jon on May 30, 2012 at 8:58pm

what if there is eternal damnation shouldn't we prepare for it just in case there is a after life. if some one said there might, might be eternal suffering for our actions, wouldnt we want to prepare so that when  we die we wont go through the suffering. i mean for get about the bible but if we believe that there is a good we would be playing it safe? just thoughts 

Comment by Obfuskation on May 30, 2012 at 9:02pm

My 2 cents adjusted for inflation...

Pascal’s Wager is a horrible concept, because you are not left with the choice of belief or Christianity, you are left with the choice of non-belief or belief in one of the many sects of Christianity, Islam, etc. etc. You only have to hear the theistic defense of “they’re not true Christians, Muslims, etc.” to realize that the odds of PW are something that a professional gambler would run from.

(1) A cosmological argument from the existence of a complex physical universe
This being the argument that everything requires a cause, claims a cause while not giving any evidentiary support and while exempting stated cause from the requirement of having a cause, and fails to realize that any supernatural entity can be replaced as the cause to justify it’s existence. m'kay.

(2-3) A teleological argument from temporal, spatial regularity, or "fine tuning"
This argument assumes that there is fine tuning, and there is no compelling evidence to indicate that is the case. There is not enough knowledge about the rest of the universe to calculate ‘odds’ for life. Regardless, lack of a definitive scientific explanation does not mean that the existence of gods as a default explanation.

(5) An argument from moral awareness
Morality is simply survival instinct taken beyond the self. Humans thrive when they operate as a group, and have developed social mechanisms to facilitate group action.

(6-7) An argument from awareness and our ability to make significant decisions, or "providence"
With these are you arguing that lack of solid scientific explanation means that gods are the source? If that’s the case, I’ll refer you to a quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson, ““If you want to point at examples where science cannot explain things and say that god is responsible, then god is simply an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance.”

The problem with these arguments is that they simply bring up topics and posit a cause without any evidence of causation. You could make this list 50 items long and it would still count for nothing unless some measurable, testable, confirmable evidence was included.

(8) An argument from miracles
I’ve never heard of one that could be substantiated.

(12) I have had experiences that seemed to be of God.
So have I. That doesn’t mean that any gods were the source. I had a dream just a few days ago that I may have thought was a divine experience if I was a believer. I posted about it on my blog here. I’m pretty sure the cause was fatigue, too much heat, and too much food. However, it might have been a message from the invisible, immaterial trout that lives between my butt cheeks who created the universe with the snap of his flipper (not six days like some pretender).

Comment by archaeopteryx on May 30, 2012 at 9:19pm

JohnJon - RE: "what if there is eternal damnation shouldn't we prepare for it just in case there is a after life."

What if a piano should fall off a building and smash us? Shouldn't we spend our lives walking around and looking up, just in case? What kind of life would that be?

And who would provide this eternal damnation? Some god? You said "forget about the bible," so let's imagine (after all, that's where gods come from) that someone told you that some god decided he would damn everyone to eternal torment who didn't jump rope for 47 minutes every day. Would you do it? Just because someone told you that some god said it?

Because what else is religion? Unless you had a god come to you personally, and tell you to do something, everything else is "somebody said that some god said...," etc., etc.

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