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: 893

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 Unseen on May 30, 2012 at 11:05pm

The thing is, your argument breaks down into two main parts. 1) all of those tired old arguments for the existence of God, leaving out the most interesting one: The Ontological Argument; and 2) your experience or hallucination of God.

Logically, the second part doesn't synergize with or supplement the first part in any way. It may explain why YOU, a fairly irrational person, feel a need to believe in God. It provides nothing to anyone else that constitutes proof of a god's existence or any motivation for anyone else to believe.

The mere mention of "miracles" here is likely to result in snickers if not guffaws.

There's something very thin and diaphanous about your belief. It hardly constitutes a religion. You attend an established denomination. I'm not sure why, since you don't buy its catechism apparently.

Beyond believing in some nameless god, what does your religion consist of? What are its core beliefs? Just that this nameless god exists? This is no religion. It doesn't give your life purpose; it doesn't give the world meaning; it doesn't bestow upon you any duties; it doesn't offer you an afterlife; it doesn't reward virtue or punish sin.

There's nothing there! After all the effort to justify your belief in a nameless magical sorcerer god, it comes to naught. The question is...why did you bother?

Comment by Obfuskation on May 30, 2012 at 11:32pm

@archaeopteryx-  Yeah, that last part was a bit dickish of me.  I apologize for that.

Comment by William Occam on May 31, 2012 at 12:38pm

This doesn't account for other religions. How can you be sure your version is the correct one? A muslim can use Pascalian reasoning exactly the same way. 

I don't know if this is true. I use a number of arguments in order to distinguish Christianity from other religions like Islam. Maybe Muslims have equally powerful arguments, but I don't have any reason to think that that's actually the case.

As Cara mentioned, expand on the "miracles" point in your post. Do you have evidence of miracles? And if so, why does your god pick and choose?

As the saying goes "If the sincere prayers of a child to god, cannot stop sexual abuse at the hands of a man of god, what does that say about god".

The argument from miracles is a minor argument that takes off from the premise that there are miracle reports. It's actually unfortunate that we're focusing so much on this particular argument, and not more forceful arguments like the cosmological or teleological, in my view.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on May 31, 2012 at 12:56pm

Muslims use many of the same arguments or variations of them. When I speak with them they use the cosmological argument in such a way that I use the same rebuttals as I do with Christians. When they mention Pascal to me I ask them what I asked you earlier.

Comment by William Occam on May 31, 2012 at 12:59pm

Ha... well, it doesn't help your case to say Strobel was a terrible apologist if those are the premises you want to use. He used all of them in his book.

Again, I haven't read the book. Maybe he used some superficially similar arguments.

I provided you a link that talks about "fine tuning". It is actually not simpler to assign one designer than to believe there are multiple universes. There are lots of reasons to believe there could be multiverses, while there's no reason (beyond human anthropomorphizing the cosmos) to believe there's one designer. In fact, I'd say it's more plausible there would be more than one god. If there can be one, there can be many. You've got a long way to go to prove monotheism is more plausible than polytheism.

I'm willing to read links (and even whole books), but if you want me to respond to something in particular, I'd appreciate it if you'd post a summary of it here. It would be really hard for me to address all of the arguments for atheism on the internet in this thread, while simultaneously holding conversations with all of you guys. Don't get me wrong, I love doing this, but it can be overwhelming. :)

Assuming that there are indeed independent reasons to believe in a multiverse, we would still need a "universe generator." The point is that any scientific explanation has to be made in terms of laws, and these will reduce to some fundamental set of laws. The theist wants to say that it's simpler to posit God as a brute fact which explains those laws than to assume that the laws are a brute fact.

I do think it is unreasonable to believe beauty is even remotely objective.

Okay. I respectfully disagree.

The claim about morality stems from the idea that we possess morality because it was given to us by a higher power, not a process of evolution. We have morality because it makes sense, and it simply proves nothing about whether there is a god... because we could have morality with or without his/her existence. And if we could have it with or without a god, it doesn't support your conclusion and should be left out.

The question that the argument is based on is, why were the fundamental laws of the universe such as to generate embodied moral agents? Your objection seems to be that the laws of the universe are indeed such as to generate embodied moral agents, but that observation is compatible with the premise of the argument. I recognize that everything we observe *could* exist with or without a God, but when assessing an inductive argument, what is and is not a bare possibility is not salient.

Here is a HUGE resource of books on the existence of god(s), the origin of life, evolution, cosmology, etc, brought to you by Think Atheist. But A Universe From Nothing, by Lawrence Krauss, may be a good start.

Thanks. I looked through the bookstore, and I've read between one-third and one-half of the books listed there. I will buy and read A Universe From Nothing, since you recommend it.

Comment by Robert Karp on May 31, 2012 at 1:00pm

That's fine and we can focus on those however in your original post you did not distinguish between your "forceful" arguments and your...um..lesser ones.

Comment by CJoe on May 31, 2012 at 1:06pm

@William

Up until this point, you haven't told us what of your premises you weigh your decision to be a Christian more heavily on. I don't think it's fair that you're dismissing our arguments against miracles, calling it "minor", when you put it forth. It's one of the more easily refuted, it's true, but you shouldn't use it as a premise leading to your conclusion you believe there's a god since even you think it's weak. You say that there are "miracle reports", but there are also UFO, Big Foot, Loch Ness Monster, etc reports as well... so stating that there are reports of them is useless unless they can be verified. Like I said, if even you think they're not worth debating, then you shouldn't have used them as arguments for the existence of "God".

So, we're in agreement then? Miracles are off the table, as well as beauty and a sense of morality. At least 1/3 of your premises are baseless.

As for premise 1 thru 3, I will refer you (again) to Lawrence Krauss' book, A Universe From Nothing. I gave you a link earlier, but you can also find it easily on Amazon. One of his main arguments is that the classic definition of "nothing" is an illusion. There is always something rather than nothing, and "nothing" is unstable so something must arise. If you're actually interested in learning something new on this topic, then read that book before you go any further.

Whether you will admit it or not, we're now at 2/3 of your premises thwarted with at least alternative and probable arguments that do not require a higher intelligence. And, honestly, the premise regarding our ability to make decisions is wrapped up in the morality argument, or rather is explained by evolution. You're down to premise 6 & 9. 9 is weak, but I will grant you consciousness has not been explained to anyone's satisfaction... yet.

So you have no "therefore" at this point. Your experiences can also be explained, whether or not you're willing to have them questioned. I had "spiritual experiences" myself, but I now realize the brain is quite powerful and the placebo effect is very strong, as well as confirmation bias, just to name a few. The drug ketamine explains near-death-experiences, and similar experiences can be replicated in people, who are not dying, when given this drug. Again, I would not say you're crazy, but you're inclined to believe these experiences are supernatural to begin with, you're open to the "suggestion", and you're actively seeking them out. Humans are pattern-seeking creatures, and will easily see the "face of God" on a piece of toast because they're looking for it, or open to it. Is it really "the face of God" on a piece of toast, or an overactive imagination?

If you actually care what our perception of you is, you'll see that we've successfully dismissed practically all (save consciousness, sort of) of your reasons for believing in the Christian god and you now look merely stubborn.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on May 31, 2012 at 1:13pm

Pascal's Wager is hard work for some.

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