From Theistic Evolution to Apostasy

August 16, 2008 at 4:58 pm 115 comments

For much of my evangelical Christian life, I held a Theistic Evolutionary view of creation. I’ll confess that I didn’t always adhere firmly to this view. Sometimes I wavered and veered into a fairly conservative Creationist point of view. Nevertheless, I could never entirely shake free of the realization that evolution had lots of empirical support. Moreover, I realized this long before I ever read my first book about evolution.

What, you may wonder (or maybe not), does a theistic view of evolution look like? Let me state up front that I can only describe what my view was; I cannot and do not claim to speak in any way for other theistic evolutionists. My view of theistic evolution was pretty simple and consisted of these points:

  • The first section of Genesis (say, the first eleven chapters) should not be read as literal accounts; they were literary constructions intended to recognize and respectfully memorialize through poetic imagery God’s activity in the universe. As for the rest of Genesis, I’ll shamefacedly admit that I took much of it literally.
  • Evolution was the process that God designed to create and sustain life on earth.
  • The Original Sin of Adam and Eve was pride; maybe Eve sinned first, maybe she didn’t – what mattered was that Adam and Eve ruptured, in some indefinite way, their relationship with God. The consequences of that rupture were death, evil, suffering, etc., that catastrophically affected all of creation, as well as humankind. Before their Fall, the universe was perfect.

As you can see, this view was long on Christian theological concepts and extremely short on evolutionary ones. I will not bore you with the details regarding how and why I came to learn more about evolution. Suffice to say that, as I became more familiar with the basic ideas, I realized that evolution and theology did not mesh very well.

The first point above, understanding Genesis as a literary rather than a literal account, was not and is not particularly problematic. It is, in fact, the right position. My difficulty was my inability to reconcile the second and third points with a realistic, albeit fairly basic, view of evolution.

The first problem I had was accepting that a perfect God deliberately established a very imperfect process to sustain life. One of the reasons evolution is imperfect is because, while it is not random, it is inefficient. Species do not travel a straight path of development, nor do they inevitably progress from less perfect ways of being toward better ways of being. Each mutation that takes hold and becomes a regular feature of a species shuts off many possible developmental pathways and slightly narrows the options for future developments. Many of the paths that are taken eventually lead to extinction. Many more species have withered and died than have survived and thrived throughout the earth’s history. That’s a lot of wasted effort. It’s difficult to call such waste “perfect” in any way. How could such a process have been the plan of a perfect God?

Another imperfection in the evolutionary process is the fact that species have evolved to devour each other. Predator-prey relationships are violent and they were going on long before human beings entered the stage. Many animals are eaten alive by their predators and their deaths are often slow and agonizing. Why would God establish an inefficient, violent, painful system for sustaining life on earth? Neither of those characteristics is consistent with the activities of a loving, perfect God.

All of this leads to the second problem I had with theistic evolution, namely, blaming humankind for all the woes of the world. If suffering, death and extinction are inevitable components of the evolutionary process, then it follows that the doctrine of Original Sin makes no sense. Firstly, as I’ve already noted, there is no way that humankind can be held responsible for bringing suffering and “evil” into the world. The world is not imperfect because people did something really bad and messed up what had been a perfect place and a perfect way of life. Humans evolved into a world that was already filled with suffering and other forms of imperfection, such as hurricanes, floods and Ice Ages. Secondly, death is not a punishment for sin; death has always been part of the cycle of life and evolution on earth. If humans are not responsible for suffering and evil, and death is simply a natural process rather than a punishment, then what need is there for atonement and redemption? Once I reached the right conclusion to that question, that there is no such need, I only needed a short, quick mental step to advance from discarding theistic evolution to discarding theism in its entirety.

– the chaplain

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My de-conversion: A discovery of deliberate lies Finding Faith?

115 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Obi  |  August 16, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I’d love to meet Ken Miller and ask him questions along these lines (for those that don’t know, he’s a prominent evolutionary biologist who’s also a Catholic), because I simply don’t see at all how evolution and the Christian Bible or concept of God derived from said Bible mesh.

    Oh, and you brought up a good point about the “Hurr, free will” response most theists give to the problem of evil — that humans hadn’t even existed while the vast majority of the suffering had been going on, so it wasn’t exactly our fault. I’d never thought of that.

  • 2. orDover  |  August 16, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Great post! Especially the last paragraph. I somehow had not thought of that before, but it really does render theistic evolution + doctrine of original sin quite silly. I’d really love to know how a theistic evolutionist deals with this issue.

  • 3. anaglyph  |  August 17, 2008 at 12:32 am

    If only more theists would attempt to understand evolution properly, as you did. Unfortunately, most of them would simply attend your argument by putting their hands over their ears and going la-la-la-la-la-la

  • 4. The de-Convert  |  August 17, 2008 at 1:18 am

    Trackback:

    http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=2169

  • 5. LeoPardus  |  August 17, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Of course you realize that this is one more “real reason” why de-conversion happens. We don’t accept the simple truth of the Bible. We look for rational/scientific/human explanations.

    I just know that some of my old fundy friends would tell me that my rejection of creationism was the first step in the path to apostasy. …… Come to think of it, they’d pretty well be correct.

  • 6. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 17, 2008 at 1:44 am

    As a Christian I could never quite accept evolution. The evidence was competing strongly with the dogma, and neither could win. Eventually I settled it in my head by deciding that whether Genesis was literal and whether evolution happened in reality was unimportant to the issue of salvation. Before finally de-converting, I guess a had a sort of theistic evolution belief. As part of that belief, I knew it didn’t really mesh with the idea of original sin, and decided that I simply didn’t understand how it all worked and left it at that. It was the only way to reconcile the evidence with the dogma, and it was a tenuous reconciliation to be sure.

  • 7. bobxxxx  |  August 17, 2008 at 2:58 am

    Evolution was the process that God designed to create and sustain life on earth.

    Sorry, but you can’t stick God there. The Magic Man didn’t have anything to do with evolution. Evolution is how the world works. It didn’t need a sky fairy to invent it or guide it.

  • 8. bobxxxx  |  August 17, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Once I reached the right conclusion to that question, that there is no such need, I only needed a short, quick mental step to advance from discarding theistic evolution to discarding theism in its entirety.

    I should read the whole thing before I comment. You’re an atheist. You’re on my side. You don’t invoke God for anything. Please disregard my previous comments.

  • 9. rover  |  August 17, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Aahhh, You have hit on one of my greatest struggles. As a Christian I cannot logically hold a young earth view or an old earth view. If I hold to a young earth then I have to conclude that all of science is incorrect.. All the imperical evidence has been designed to mislead us. If I take an old earth view then I am forced to compromise on my theology and my concept of the character of God. Did God create the world through trial and error of evolution? Why did he create the Neanderthal?. How come death entered the world before the fall? Huge issues for a literalist.

  • 10. Obi  |  August 17, 2008 at 7:58 am

    rover —

    The Christian God doesn’t exist…
    :)

  • 11. ubi dubium  |  August 17, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Rover

    As a Christian I cannot logically hold a young earth view or an old earth view.

    In my mainstream protestant (presbyterian) childhood I knew many christians who had no problem accepting the old earth view and theistic evolution. It was sort of an easy comfortable middle ground. They realized that the bible does not have to be “word-for-word accurate” to be inspirational. The pastor of my church even made the gutsy move of preaching a sermon against being too much of a biblical literalist. He lost a few of the more fundie members over that, but most of the membership applauded his decision to do that. (And it had the added bonus of getting rid of the youth advisors who had begun to push evangelizing with tracts at the kids.)

  • 12. orDover  |  August 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    “I just know that some of my old fundy friends would tell me that my rejection of creationism was the first step in the path to apostasy. …… Come to think of it, they’d pretty well be correct.”

    I almost hate to admit how true that statement is. I hate admitting how much the theory of evolution had to do with my deconversion, because it seems to feed a negative Christian stereotype that no one can believe in both God and Darwin. I would like more Christians to be theistic evolutionists, although I believe that there are such huge problems with that stance that it’s a really poor position to hold (though less poor than YEC or literal Genesis).

    This all or nothing way of seeing things is part of what gives evolution such a bad wrap, what makes it seem so dangerous, and what makes evangelicals fight tooth and nail against it by telling children lies and releasing slanderous films like Ben Stein’s Expelled.

  • 13. Obi  |  August 17, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I think the reason that the theory of evolution in particular and science in general is so opposed these days is because with advances in technology, we’re able to provide answers to questions that have been relegated exlusively to the realm of religion for thousands and thousands of years. The origin and development of life (abiogenesis and evolution), the beginning of the Universe (the Big Bang and string theory), and the mind/center of a person previously called the “soul” that modern neurology has shown us is completely physical. Oh, and the demise of libertarian free will as well, as it plays a major part in the consideration of ethics in most, if not all major world religions.

    Science is treading ground that the religious would rather keep it out of.

  • 14. Quester  |  August 17, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I had been taught that the number seven, in Hebrew thought, was meant to symbolize wholeness or completeness. For God to have created the world in seven days meant that He took the time to make it fully and completely. To forgive someone seven times meant to forgive completely, and to forgive seventy times seven times meant not just to forgive, but to restore wholeness.

    I don’t know how strongly supported such teachings actually are, but I never had problems with evolution.

  • 15. soraGoon  |  August 17, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Once I reached the right conclusion to that question, that there is no such need, I only needed a short, quick mental step to advance from discarding theistic evolution to discarding theism in its entirety.

    Just my two cents…

    Your objections to theistic evolution (and theism in general) here is based on refuting Christian ideas of God. It doesn’t necessarily apply to theism in its entirety — like, say, Deism or Dystheism. Which both don’t incorporate ideas about Perfect God and original sin.

    (though none of them makes a worshipable God, but that’s another story anyway) :)

  • 16. ubi dubium  |  August 17, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    soraGoon

    Your objections to theistic evolution (and theism in general) here is based on refuting Christian ideas of God. It doesn’t necessarily apply to theism in its entirety — like, say, Deism or Dystheism.

    Yes, but once one has decided that some religious claims should be subject to rational examination, it’s a logical step from there to deciding that all religious claims should be questioned. I think that’s why so many de-cons go straight to atheism. Once the christian ideas have been dropped, any other theistic ideas have got to be more consistent than the christian ones to be worth consideration. And, for the most part, they’re not.

  • 17. rover  |  August 17, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    For the fundamentalist Christian it is the beginning of the end to no longer believe in a literal interpretation of scripture. If I say that the first several chapters of Genesis are not to be taken literally then I open the door to other parts not being taken literally. Is Jesus really the only way? If the bible is not literal then perhaps he is not the only the way. It is a friegthening thought for the fundamentalist. Security is removed. Objectivity is lost. We can be sure of nothing. If we do allow for theistic evolution then we serve a God who works through a process that demonstrates that he is not omnipotent, ie, he makes mistakes. Since I am still a Christian and therefore still relatively unintelligent I have to ask this question – is evolution possibly the deluding lie that even the faithful would believe at the end of the age? I feel silly even asking it, but the thought had to cross someone’s mind. Has it crossed yours? Are we being deluded into putting faith into something that is a lie? I know that this is a question that can be easily ridiculed. But I am obviously still steeped in the superstition of religion so it is natural for me to have these thoughts. Isn’t it…

  • 18. ubi dubium  |  August 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Rover

    If we do allow for theistic evolution then we serve a God who works through a process that demonstrates that he is not omnipotent, ie, he makes mistakes.

    I can imagine some believers looking at it as more consistent with –
    a god who allows imperfections in people has, in his wisdom, provided an equally imperfect world for them to live in. Whatever the justification is for human imperfection can be extended to justify natural imperfections. This seems a worldview that someone could hold and keep their feeling of security.

    It has never crossed my mind that evolution might be a deliberate lie. Throughout history, religion has fought against any scientific idea that might remove man from his special place as the pinnacle and purpose of creation. (Just read about what happened to Galileo.) Objections to evolution are just the latest installment. The earth is not flat, Jerusalem is not at it’s center, there is no firmament up there, we are not at the center of the solar system, our solar system is not at the center of the galaxy, our galaxy is not in the center of the universe, and we are not the magnificent culmination of some plan designed to bring us here. We are just intelligent mammals, and not a separate creation from the other animals. We are just one of the things that atoms do, given billions of years. To me, this makes life more special, not less. But it can also make one feel small and unimportant. Religions prefer to claim their followers are privileged and special, not small.

  • 19. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 17, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    rover-

    To be a bit pedantic, evolution is undeniably true, as we’ve seen it happen. The only real debate is whether evolution can lead to speciation. And really, the only evidence we have that it can’t do such is that we haven’t actually watched it happen. Every argument I’ve heard given for why this can’t happen I have found a satisfactory refutation for. Of course, in the end, evolution had almost nothing to do with my de-conversion, so I don’t know how effective a lie it really is. Not to mention all the theistic evolutionists who believe in it but are still able to maintain their religious views.

  • 20. ordover  |  August 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    “Since I am still a Christian and therefore still relatively unintelligent I have to ask this question – is evolution possibly the deluding lie that even the faithful would believe at the end of the age? I feel silly even asking it, but the thought had to cross someone’s mind. Has it crossed yours? Are we being deluded into putting faith into something that is a lie?”

    Go to a Natural History museum. Look at some fossils. Visit an archaeological dig. Read a peer-reviewed paper. Go to Michigan State University and look at the bacteria that have evolved the ability to metabolize citrate where before they could only metabolize glucose. If you’ve got 30+ years you can even breed your own bacteria and watch it evolve new traits to fit the environment you put it in. The proof is there for all of us to see.

    No. There is no chance that we’re being lied to.

  • 21. rover  |  August 17, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Snuggly,

    I guess I am asking more about the psychology of de conversion. Many thoughts go through your head. I cannot deny evolution as a rational being, but as an irrational being I struggle with the implications of accepting it. I can see that the process of coming out of fundamental Christianity is obviously like coming out of a self imposed cult. I am sometimes embarrassed by the thoughts that go through my head. Has satan planted the evidence? Are we misinterpreting the science? Things to consider while a suck on my 50 calorie chocolate fudge bar.

  • 22. ubi dubium  |  August 17, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Has satan planted the evidence? Are we misinterpreting the science?

    Has satan planted the evidence, or is satan a fiction invented by humans to scare people away from asking hard questions?

    I know working through this struggle is hard. Have another fudge bar. Chocolate helps everything.

  • 23. Mark C.  |  August 18, 2008 at 12:23 am

    rover,

    Read the Bible again and ask yourself this: if Satan is supposed to be the great deceiver; if most people will go to hell; if you believe that the god that committed all the atrocities in the Bible is real and you obey it; and if most people do so without questioning one iota or without reading the Bible itself… don’t you think that the god of the Bible actually looks like what Satan is claimed to be?

    Think about it. Most Christians follow a system they haven’t even read the details about. They are told not to question, which every fraud will tell to those who would believe him. And in not reading the Bible in its entirety (reading only the New Testament counts for this), they don’t know about the actions that God is said to have committed, many of which should make them uncomfortable (gigantic understatement) about worshiping such a being.

    Literalists will not only follow this doctrine that looks incredibly fraudulent, but they will deny the evidence of their senses.

    What do you get when you believe something that has all the hallmarks of fraudulence and then deny the only mechanisms known that lead to knowledge? What you get… is a fool. And Christians aren’t the only ones who will do these things–most people on the planet do them, and intellectually, in the ways I’ve mentioned, there is no way to distinguish one such believer from another, even across many religions.

    I am NOT attempting to insult you. However… please think about what I’ve said. When you see religions from the outside, it’s easy to see that they look fraudulent.

  • 24. Quester  |  August 18, 2008 at 2:08 am

    Rover,

    Let me tell you a story. Last year, around October or November, I realized that some of my struggles with Christianity were really coming to a point. I confessed this to a friend/colleague of mine who told me to tell my bishop. I was scared of losing my job, but I told the bishop and he was supportive. He helped me find a Christian counsellor I could meet with twice a month. I also met with another pastor once a week, and we prayed for each other in our doubts and struggles. He was near retirement, and I just beginning; we had different doubts and struggles, but it helped to share and pray. I shared with my wife as well, and she gave me emotional support, thought could not understand what I was going through.

    I did not want my parishioners to know of my unbelief, so I did not share with anyone else in the community. I went online and found several Christian sites. I got shouted off for my doubts and heretical ideas.

    I came here. I chose the username Quester because I was questing. I did not really know what I believed any more, or what there was to put my faith in. I challenged theistic and atheistic claims and ideas, when I found flaws in them. I chased ideas into the ground, trying to find where they might lead- sometimes conversing for dozens upon dozens of comments. Often, I went wildly off topic.

    I was encouraged to share my own story, so I created my own blog where I could write about my doubts, but also about the times in my past when I had truly believed I had experienced God’s presence or followed God’s will. I wrote it all out, taking it out of my head to where I could wrestle with it on the screen and see what I did believe… what I could believe. I wrote about things that were unbelievable, but that I had experienced: things that had supported my beliefs. I did not write as someone who had suddenly become more intelligent, or less superstitious, but at someone who faced new facts, or new interpretations of old facts, and felt the need to change my mind accordingly.

    I was also invited to contribute here, and I wrote articles that were not overtly theistic or atheistic, but dealt with the doubts and arguments that come in between.

    Rover, it seems you are roving, as I am questing. It’s scary. I had to leave my job as a pastor, and the house I got to live in as a job benefit. I had to face my bishop and my parish and confess I did not know what I believed anymore, if anything. I had to confess the same to my parents and my closest friends, all of whom were Christian.

    I was lucky. My wife loves me and trusts God, and so leaves my soul in God’s hands. The bishop filled out the paperwork so that I could collect unemployment until I got a new job. My parents support my leaving the ministry, and pray that God will show me where He wants me to go now. My closest friends accepted me back without much comment (with one exception). For the most part, we all dance around talking about my faith and doubts.

    I no longer meet with the Christian counsellor, but now meet with a spiritual mentor once a month. It’s hard to just throw out a lifetime of faith.

    But I see nothing to cling to, either. Even the hope that evolution might be the devil’s lie is ultimately unhelpful to me. Evolution never caused me a moment’s doubt, though it did give me something to look to when my doubts tore other answers away from me.It’s not a metaphorical Genesis that frightened me, but irreconcilable accounts of the resurrection and contradictory ideas of how to live in it’s aftermath. Even without evolution, I would have no clear sign of who God is, what God wants, or why I should care.

    You’re not stupid, Rover. You’re not blind. Be careful saying you are, even jokingly. It’s easy to begin believing such nonsense.

    You’re also not making an irreversible step. You’re just going where the facts seem to be leading. That’s all I did, too. Maybe one day, we’ll find new facts. But that doesn’t lessen our need to respond to the facts we have with integrity.

    Best of luck, Rover. I know this isn’t a very fun time.

  • 25. doazic  |  August 18, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Ken Miller is a thorn in the sides of atheists and creationists.

  • 26. owen59  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:31 am

    I’m a theist but have the benefit of more than just Christian religious learning so I find the logic here somewhat amusing.

  • 27. thecages  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:53 am

    While your post does reach valid conclusions it is not factually 100% correct.

    One of the reasons evolution is imperfect is because, while it is not random, it is inefficient.

    Biological evolution is the result of a completely random process – natural selection. Genes that replicate and mutate have no intent or purpose, they are not interested in efficiency or development; they simply replicate. The imperfections in our biology is not due to an inefficient process; the process cannot produce anything more than ‘good enough’. If a one-eyed, cripple, ugly bat manages to produce offspring it’s genes have succeeded.
    I suspect that embracing the total randomness of natural selection may challenge some of the de-converted more than what they’d be comfortable admitting. Not only does God not exist, but his replacement is random and blind.

  • 28. Gabriel  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I don’t want to be pedantic, but no, natural selection is NOT a random process. Mutations are random. Only advantageous characteristics will, in the long run, be maintained for future generations. Natural selection is deterministic: if mutations are harmless or an improvement, they stick around. If not, the organism dies, and well, too bad for it. It is inefficient, yes, I agree. But do not call natural selection a random process. There’s selection going on, the fittest surviving, the rest, not.

  • 29. BigHouse  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Yes, “random” isn’t the right word to describe natural selection. I think the words they’re looking for is “actively guided”. What arises/survives is not pre-determined, but once it arises, it’s selction is not random.

  • 30. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Gabriel

    I have always wondered if Mutations are actually there to make the organism stronger. It almost seems to be like the “adaptation” process in strength training. Put stressors on the body to adapt and it should get stronger. I wonder if that is what Nature is doing with mutations and such? Then my next curiosity is why?

  • 31. ubi dubium  |  August 18, 2008 at 10:46 am

    johnt:

    I have always wondered if Mutations are actually there to make the organism stronger. It almost seems to be like the “adaptation” process in strength training. Put stressors on the body to adapt and it should get stronger. I wonder if that is what Nature is doing with mutations and such? Then my next curiosity is why?

    Mutations and other types of variability make populations stronger (remember that natural selection creates change in groups, not individuals) . Any species where all the individuals are too much alike will find that a weakness when presented with a new challenge, like say, a disease. A species were some are better at meeting the challenge than others can adapt. So the capacity for mutations is a very good thing.

    Nature is not “trying” to do anything with mutations. They are simply something that works, so the capability hangs around. The basic rule of evolution is “nothing succeeds like success”. That’s all the “why” needed here.

  • 32. thecages  |  August 18, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Gabriel,
    Ah yes, you are correct – mutations are random. But I don’t agree that natural selection is ‘usefully’ deterministic. We may observe evolutionary progress, but we don’t experience a deterministic process. What we humans can usefully experience is random, probably because we tend to only live to witness the lives of a few generations of our species.

    I will restate. I suspect that embracing the total randomness of the mutations that underpin natural selection may challenge some of the de-converted more than what they’d be comfortable admitting.

    BigHouse,
    No, I’m not looking for the words ‘actively guided’. I’m looking for the exact opposite words. However, I’m also not looking for the words of this nut: http://evolution-becoming.com/testimony.html

  • 33. BigHouse  |  August 18, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Yes, I meant “not activerly guided”.

    Mutations are random, the selection of certain mutations is not.

  • 34. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 18, 2008 at 11:47 am

    I will restate. I suspect that embracing the total randomness of the mutations that underpin natural selection may challenge some of the de-converted more than what they’d be comfortable admitting.

    Arguments against the randomness of evolution are something I heard long before finding this blog. It’s not an argument the de-converted came up with.

    I have absolutely no problem with the idea that evolution is random. However, looking at what evolution is, I have to agree that random is the wrong word to describe it. Undirected, yes, but not random.

  • 35. Pete  |  August 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I’m a Christian, and I fully accept evolution, so I guess that would make me a theistic evolutionist, but I refrain from using that title since my fudie friends take that as a theological category; therefor assuming I have answers to their myriad of theological questions. What about Adam and Eve? If Genesis is not literal, when does the Bible become literal? What about original sin? What about death before the fall and Romans 5?. I have answers to exactly zero of these questions. But that doesn’t matter, evolution is true whether it fits my theological system or not or whether I can be satisfied in my own reasoning that it is comparable with Christian thought. But that leads me to my next point, my belief in God in the here and now. I don’t care much for our apologetics, trying to prove fine tuning or matter existence proves God. What I want to know is whether the God of the New Testament Bible is active this very day. And if this is true, then once again it doesn’t matter whether this fits with evolutionary thinking or consequences, it happens to be true through the same pure empirical observation that brought us common descent.
    Okay, now is it true??? To be honest, I’m no longer sure, and I am begging God to make himself real again in my life. So while I am a Christian and still speak to Jesus, its very possible I am just on the road many here have taken and will be posting here in six months. And since it is not clear to me that the God as described in the Bible is active today, then it is fair to explore some of the issues that the original post explores, such as how can there be death all along, and how does that relate to original sin. I wouldn’t go so far to say I didn’t need redemption, as original sin or no, there is sin in my life as defined by the Bible, and the death I wish to avoid is spiritual death, not physical death. But it does seem a strange way for God to create, with death being integral for change on the planet, and our ancestors, long before we would define them as human, sharing in this death that we ourselves experience. Other doubts include the whole mind/soul dichotomy (since I pretty much except my thinking is purely physical and can be disrupted by physical chemicals, like LSD) and the fact that independently I am a strong advocate of evolutionary psychology which would force some interesting questions on morality at times.
    Several of my conservative friends also predicted future doubt when I came out of the closet on my common descent beliefs. Like several others have commented here I hate to admit that this is probably true. Evolution is a verifiable empirical reality, it is silly to deny it because of “what it leads to” even though I wished it would lead to that less since that fact will be enough for most conservatives to deny it.

  • 36. Obi  |  August 18, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Looks like you’re going to be just fine, Pete.

  • 37. mindbogglingly dazzled  |  August 18, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Pete

    interesting post, but what I don’t completely get is this: you say evolution is true whether it fits your theological system or not. And you also say if the NT God is active it doesn’t matter whether this fits with evolutionary thinking.
    What I didn’t quite get is why the two should be so independent of each other?? It often seems to me that claim X is so true and it seems to me that claim Y is so true, but then I realize that X and Y can’t be both true, so I have to give up one of them – even though, independently taken, they each seem true to me…

  • 38. mindbogglingly dazzled  |  August 18, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    BTW, I don’t think you have to be embarassed infront of your friends that, now, you actually are in doubt as they have predicted. I sometimes have the same feelings. I think “Well, the suspicion of my conservative friends about me attending catholic or liberal services now finally proves them right” and so on…

    But then: Given that I had those problems with conservative evangelicalism or with creationism or whatever, would I have done better in the first place not to explore other options (such as theistic evolution, catholicism, …)?
    Given that I had those doubts about faith, I think it was completely the right thing of me to become more open-minded even if this open-mindedness should in the end carry me down the road of de-conversion.

    Can your friends prove that you would have less doubts about God if you wouldn’t have started adhering to the belief in common descent? Why shouldn’t your doubts be bigger now if you had tried sticking to fundamentalist beliefs?

    …..I’m also still a Christian. And I don’t think my faith will survive if I don’t adapt it somewhat to new circumstances. Even if the changes I now make in my faith should in the end prove the be the first step (actually, second or third or fourth step) of losing my faith, I can’t do any better.
    Actually it’s a win-win-situation: If I should lose my faith I have to start by making some changes to it. And if I want my faith to be saved, I have to start making changes to it. I have to make changes to it – no matter what…

    (OK, I feel like I have projected my own situation into yours… but anyway, maybe it helps. And if not: writing down this stuff has helped me :) )

  • 39. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 18, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Pete, you sound like you’re in exactly the same place I was some 5 months ago. I had more-or-less accepted theistic evolution, though I had no way to really harmonize it with my religious dogma and had to resort to the “it’s a mystery” argument.

    What really set me on the path of de-conversion, though, was the inefficacy of prayer; more-or-less the same idea you present, that God does not appear to be active in the world today. Evolution makes a lot more sense in the absence of Christian theism, but it was hardly the reason I finally gave up my faith. If God is real, why does he answer prayer in exactly the way we’d expect from random chance and natural occurrences?

    What ultimately did my faith in was God not answering my prayers that he help me with my unbelief. I’ve seen in numerous ways the basic idea that if you seek God, you will find him. One that really stands out to me was a pastor giving that as the surest way to prove or disprove God. If you seek God and don’t find him, you have proved he doesn’t exist. And so far, that’s exactly what I’ve found. While I’m sure many Christians would argue that I simply wasn’t sincere in my seeking, or find some other excuse for God’s lack of an answer, I know better. Fortunately, none of my Christian friends have made any such accusations, and have even admitted to not understanding why God did not answer me.

    Anyway, I know it’s not an easy place to be. Whether you end up de-converting or a stronger Christian than ever, I wish you well on this journey.

  • 40. Echo  |  August 18, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    What really set me on the path of de-conversion, though, was the inefficacy of prayer; more-or-less the same idea you present, that God does not appear to be active in the world today.

    I find this to be a very strange statement. If one TRULY has faith in God will one come to a point of saying he doesn’t exist because their prayers aren’t being answered? I don’t believe so. If one truly has faith they may question God, complain, and wonder why their prayers aren’t being answered, but they will CONTINUE to trust him. They’re not going to come to a place where they say he doesn’t exist.

    I can truly say that it has been some time now since I have seen God answer my prayers in some amazing way (although this did happen in the past a few times). But I trust God—he is the Good Shepherd, and knows what is best for me. Is there a reason my prayers are not being directly answered? You know what? I don’t really know. The Psalms say often “Wait on the Lord…” and I know that as I wait the Lord WILL provide and answer in the way that is best for me. I haven’t lost trust just because He isn’t making himself known to me in some special way.

    Your post—-and some others that state such things, I find very hard to understand.

  • 41. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Its interesting to note that many so called “Christians” struggle with the fact that they believe in a creator, they like many tenets of Christianity, but because they dont like other aspects or cant fit them in a neat little box they then feel the need to totally discard the notion of a higher power or God. Go figure.

  • 42. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    The basic rule of evolution is “nothing succeeds like success”. That’s all the “why” needed here.(Ubi)

    Well if the purpose of Evolution is success, what success is it eventually trying to obtain?

  • 43. Echo  |  August 18, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    I remember once when I first went trout fishing in Bishop, California. We were fishing on a tiny stream called Tinnemaha creek. I tried for a few hours to catch a fish and was unsuccessful. In fact, I got so upset I shouted at my brother “There’re no fish in this creek!!” I shouted this because he had said it was a great place to fish, and I was frustrated. My brother walked over, took my rod and reel, tossed the bait into the water and caught a rainbow trout in about 3 minutes. “No fish in the stream huh?” he said chuckling , handing me back the rod and reel. He had simply used a very different technique than me–the problem wasn’t that there were no fish, it was because I was fishing incorrectly.

    How stupid of me!! I had come to the conclusion no fish were in the stream because “I” couldn’t catch any of them!! After my brother showed me what I was doing wrong, and I LISTENED TO HIM, I began to catch fish. I had been acting quite foolishly. In like manner, do I conclude there is no eternal God because he isn’t answering MY PRAYERS? That would be a pretty foolish thing to do seeing that many, many, others claim he DOES answer prayers. I know there is a vast difference between fishing for trout and prayer to God—–but the same principle applies—can I allow myself to drift completely into unbelief due to my own subjective experience? Can one accuse Christians of using “subjectiveness” as a reason FOR believing—yet at the same time use “subjective experience” as a reason for NOT BELIEVING also? “I started on the road to deconversion due to my unanswered prayers”–that’s pretty subjective don’t you think? I won’t post more along these lines—but find the whole logic of unanswered prayer as a reason for heading towards deconversion to be quite confusing.

  • 44. LeoPardus  |  August 18, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Echo:

    One important difference with your analogy is this: Lots of people are catching fish. NO ONE is getting prayers answered.

    Now mind you, lots of folks talk about answered prayers, but you can never get hard, cold, objetive proof. In fact, anytime someone does try to get objective proof, prayer falls flast on it’s face.

    So all you’re left with is hearsay about answered prayer.

    What would you conclude if you were told about a great fishing spot, but you couldn’t find it? Lot’s of people say it’s there and many claim to know someone who caught loads of big fish there. But you can’t find anyone who has actually been there and caught the fish. Nor can they direct you there. But by golly, they all assure you it’s there and has the biggest trout you’ve ever seen.

    Would you think it was all just a fish story?

  • 45. Echo  |  August 18, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    One important difference with your analogy is this: Lots of people are catching fish. NO ONE is getting prayers answered.

    LeoPardus—-

    That is a purely subjective statement. Perhaps you are discounting every explanation of an answered prayer that is given to you. Maybe they are not miraculous enough for YOU. Perhaps they are telling you about the great fishing spot, and even holding up trout right in front of your nose—–but they are not BIG ENOUGH TROUT to meet your standards of a great fishing spot. So, as a result, you don’t believe there is such a spot.

    If every “answered” prayer has to be a 20 lb trout, all the 2-3 pounders (and there may be hundreds of them) are “unanswered” according to your subjective reasoning.

  • 46. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    NO ONE is getting prayers answered

    but you can never get hard, cold, objetive proof. In fact, anytime someone does try to get objective proof, prayer falls flast on it’s face.(Leopardus)

    And here we have it, absolute proof that no one gets prayers answered because they cant give hard, cold, objective proof……Hmmm that almost sounds Fundamentalist.

    Leo, its like this, Im out golfing one morning by myself and I get a hole in one. I cant prove it so I dont tell anyone for fear they call me a liar, yet I know I got it. I honestly dont think you have a problem with someone having the experience, I think your problem is you dont want them telling anyone its Real.

  • 47. Rover  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Have any of the De cons had any prayers answered? Do you have one that really stands out? Even if I were to deconvert I still have one very unexplanable prayer that was answered in a miraculous way. I like to know if you have had one that just seemed supernatural.

  • 48. Obi  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Matthew 17:20, “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

    James 5:16-18, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

    Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

    Matthew 18:19-20, “ “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

    Luke 11:2-4, “He said to them, “When you pray, say:
    ” ‘Father,
    hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come.
    Give us each day our daily bread.
    Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
    And lead us not into temptation.’

    Millions, perhaps even billions around the world pray every day for God to provide “daily bread” for not only them, but to others around the world in need of sustenance. However, each and every year millions of people die from starvation and malnutrition. In Africa, it’s an epidemic. Read over the above verses that I’ve quoted, three of them by Jesus. In each one, we see promises that prayer will be answered. Not “might” be answered or “might be answered if you pray a certain way”, will be answered. I can’t imagine it being a supposedly loving God’s will that people, especially young children, should die of starvation.

    Organized for conciseness…

    (1) God has promised to answer our prayers if we gather together in groups as small as two and have faith. Millions of people around the world do this every day.
    (2) God has promised to answer prayers regarding food and sustenance, and he specifically mentioned such in his instruction on how to pray, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer.
    (3) A loving God would be willing to alleviate the unnecessary suffering of starvation.
    (4) Starvation is still prevalent across the entire globe, from South America to Africa to parts of Asia, which is not what we would expect if the God described in parts (1),(2), and (3) existed.

    The only logical conclusion is that God doesn’t exist.

  • 49. Obi  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Let the excuses and shallow apologetics roll.

  • 50. ordover  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    “Let the excuses and shallow apologetics roll.”

    That’s all they’ve got. Oh, and also anecdotal evidence.

  • 51. ubi dubium  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    johnt:

    Well if the purpose of Evolution is success, what success is it eventually trying to obtain?

    Evolution does not have a “purpose”. It’s not “trying” to do anything. Things that are better at reproducing leave more descendants. That’s it. No purpose, no direction. Stuff happens, and what works happens more.

  • 52. Obi  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    orDover —

    I don’t want to make this an “us” and “them” situation, but I have to agree with you. Apologetics is basically the study of excuses, and weak ones at that. I can only imagine how many people ask questions, are fed weak excuses and worn out platitudes, and simply continue on satisfied with that.

  • 53. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    That’s it. No purpose, no direction. Stuff happens, and what works happens more.(Ubi)

    Ok firstly Im no Christian or a person of any doctrine. I do believe in a creative force for the universe. Now here is where I have a problem. If there is no purpose to what I do other than ensuring that my future generations continue, why not just get what I can now. I am smart enough, strong enough, and freaking tough enough to get for me. I know you cant answer that. I have been trying to find what drives an atheist if there is no reason for the Universe, can any of you give me an answer?

  • 54. Ubi Dubius  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    I was raised to believe that certain things are important: pride in your work; good deeds; love; reputation; justice; family, et al. These things are important to me. I don’t need a deity or a universal purpose to tell me what’s important. We teach our children the same things. Why? It makes our own lives easier and it makes our family more successful.

  • 55. ubi dubium  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    johnt

    I have been trying to find what drives an atheist if there is no reason for the Universe, can any of you give me an answer?

    I get to participate in the wonderful experience that is life in the universe. I have the opportunity to find a purpose for myself, since the universe will not be handing me one. I’ve decided it’s important to me that I leave this planet a better place for my descendants, and for humanity as a whole. There’s my answer.

  • 56. Echo  |  August 18, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

    Jesus said that the poor would be with us always until he returns. No one believes that Jesus meant that if you have enough faith you could move a physical mountain.

    Jesus made no promises that if we prayed in two’s and three’s that the whole world would be cured. i don’t read that anywhere. “If you ask anything in my name I will do it”. Do you believe that if I ask “Please Jesus, cure AIDS today” that my prayer is going to be immediately answered and the disease will disappear? Of course not. However, if we pray, “Lord, help the starving people” what CAN happen? You see a Larry Jones with “Feed The Children” raised up, sending thousands and thousands of pounds of food daily to Africa and other countries. God uses PEOPLE to answer prayers—sometimes he uses the same person who asked the prayer to answer the prayer.

    Now—-we can easily set back and “judge” what is an answered prayer or not. It’s easy to be a critic. If your movie isn’t an epic you’re giving it “two thumbs down”. God is at work all over the world, and he is answering prayers all the time. Jesus said “Did I not say that if you believe you would see the glory of God?” If we are believing we are seeing answered prayer all around us. If we are filled with unbelief then we will be blind to any answered prayers, even if they are right in front of our noses.

  • 57. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Dubium and Dubius

    Good answers. Now if a person answered that they find purpose in mayhem, murder, lying, infidelity and other kind of not so nice behaviour wouldnt it be just as purposeful as your lives?

  • 58. ubi dubium  |  August 18, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Echo

    You see a Larry Jones with “Feed The Children” raised up, sending thousands and thousands of pounds of food daily to Africa and other countries.

    Yes, people can do good things. And they can do them even without believing in any supernatural beings. If god’s only way of answering prayers is to send people to do good things, let’s just skip to the “doing good things” part and dispense with the praying.

    Jesus made no promises that if we prayed in two’s and three’s that the whole world would be cured. i don’t read that anywhere. “If you ask anything in my name I will do it”. Do you believe that if I ask “Please Jesus, cure AIDS today” that my prayer is going to be immediately answered and the disease will disappear? Of course not.

    No, of course I don’t believe that for a minute. The point is – the bible says that believers should be able to do just that. It says specifically that with enough faith, anything is possible. But it clearly isn’t, and not even today’s christians really believe that it is.

  • 59. ubi dubium  |  August 18, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    johnt

    Now if a person answered that they find purpose in mayhem, murder, lying, infidelity and other kind of not so nice behaviour wouldnt it be just as purposeful as your lives?

    Well, for them, it would be. But since humans are social animals, it is to the advantage of the group as a whole to put a stop to that sort of thing. So, while an individual may find their purpose in antisocial behavior, in the long run they are less likely than average to be successful in reproducing.

  • 60. Obi  |  August 18, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Echo —

    Why not? Is curing AIDS something that’s too hard for God? Or does he simply not want to do something that would benefit humanity too much, even when millions are praying for it? Also, saying that God uses humans to answer prayers is basically stating that (1) God impinges upon our free will by pulling strings like a cosmic puppetmaster, using people to do his bidding and (2) God is too lazy or simply doesn’t care enough to do things himself. Why does God leave the task up to weak and limited humans when he could easily answer the prayers of millions and wipe out hunger in an instant? It makes no sense whatsoever.

    Furthermore, it isn’t as if there hasn’t been a precedent set for God answering people’s prayers for food without resorting to “using humans” to answer prayer. Do you remember when the Israelites were in the desert? When they cried out to God for food, did he send Mesopotamian missionaries to their aid? Of course not. He sent food down directly from heaven, completely skipping the human middle man that you assert he uses. What exactly is stopping him from doing the exact same thing now, and raining down food from on high? It seems as if God has gone into hiding, and he stays away from obviously divine miracles and sticks to the shadows, tinkering with things and manipulating people here and there to keep himself concealed. Or maybe, he was never there in the first place. Indeed, I think I’ll go with that answer.

  • 61. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Ubi D.

    But what if the individual only wants his “own” to flourish. What if he or she is one of the “strong”. Evolution technically would justify their getting rid of the “weak” ones. Being a Social Animal doesnt make you loving or kind or sympathetic.

    “No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity, But I know none, and am therefore no Beast.”

  • 62. Quester  |  August 18, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Rover,

    Have any of the De cons had any prayers answered? Do you have one that really stands out? Even if I were to deconvert I still have one very unexplanable prayer that was answered in a miraculous way. I like to know if you have had one that just seemed supernatural.

    One day, when I was a young child, I was walking home from school. A dog almost as big as me started running toward me. I was scared- frozen to the spot- and prayed to God that the dog would go away. The dog turned and went back to it’s owner before it got all the way to me. This is one of my earliest memories, and was significant in shaping my beliefs about God as I grew older.

    How about you? Got a key one you hold onto?

  • 63. ubi dubium  |  August 18, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    johnt
    Being one of the “strong” does not just mean physical strength. It means having those traits that, in combination with the physical environment, lead to success. In modern society being violent and murderous does not get you success, it gets you a life behind bars. Or dead in a gang war. These days being one of the “strong” means figuring out how best to co-exist with the other members of society. (This has nothing to do with being “good”. An embezzler who is never caught might be very successful!)

    Evolution does not justify our getting rid of weak individuals. That’s artificial selection, and many people have gotten the ideas confused. Natural selection does not need our help. “Weak” individuals are those who are unsuccessful at getting their genes into the next generation.

    I think being a Social Animal, for most of us, does come with a large measure of love and kindness and sympathy. (Mixed with a level of agression, which we also need). We care for our own, our children, our family, our tribe. We must, because we depend on each other for survival. For some of us, that now extends to “our species”.

  • 64. Obi  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    John T. said, “But what if the individual only wants his “own” to flourish. What if he or she is one of the “strong”. Evolution technically would justify their getting rid of the “weak” ones. Being a Social Animal doesnt make you loving or kind or sympathetic.

    Yep. If you consider yourself strong John, I suggest that you go out now and kill as many “weak” people as you can lest you be killed yourself. Survival of the fittest, no? Evolution allows it, no? Just don’t be surprised when you get arrested, because social animals tend to depend on each other, meaning that the strong police help your weak victims against someone like yourself. I hear it’s an evolutionary adaptation unique to many species of social animals.

  • 65. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Ubi Dubium

    Spoken like a North American. I guess you havnt heard of Robert Mugabe. I think hes in his 80s. He sure was able to live a long life,spread his seed and make sure his progeny survives. Well for the time being that is. Most people who live violently never see the inside of a prison. Nor are they denied there biological right to make more of themselves. There has to be something more than Evolution determining whether you become Loving, Kind and sympathetic, because those traits in themselves dont determine whether the species survives. In fact for the most part they have nothing to do with survival.

  • 66. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Obi

    Your argument almost seems to lack logic……….its almost emotionally based. Interesting.

  • 67. ordover  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    john t.,
    But what if the individual only wants his “own” to flourish. What if he or she is one of the “strong”. Evolution technically would justify their getting rid of the “weak” ones. Being a Social Animal doesnt make you loving or kind or sympathetic.

    “No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity, But I know none, and am therefore no Beast

    Watch this:

    “…niceness has been hardwired into us from the time when we used to live in small groups of close kin and close acquaintances with whom it would pay to reciprocate favors. This, for me, is the antidote to the darkness some have seen in our Darwinian heritage. And it goes further. The joy of being conscious human beings is that we rise above our origins…we don’t ape the nastiness of nature, but extract ourselves from it and live by our values.

    As Darwin recognized, we humans are the first and only species able to escape the brutal force that created us: natural selection. ‘We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment.'”

  • 68. Obi  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Of course John, you’re right. One should never question the insight of a genius such as yourself.

  • 69. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    OrDover

    “We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment.’”

    How can you say this with a straight face. Not that I can see your face, but you Im sure you catch my drift. Look around the world, No, look in the neighbourhoods that you dont want to visit at night. This idea is clearly not true. It has some merit, but only a fraction. The world isnt better than when we were cavemen, it has just morphed. The violent and terrible aspects of Human Nature have remained consistent. So has the loving and joyous ones too. My brain just needs something more than Evolution to make the “good” choice, because if I rely on the survival of the fittest mentality, well oh boy look out.

  • 70. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Obi

    Good sarcasm. Just tell me, do you honestly think Evolution is enough for people to be Loving and Kind and sympathetic?

  • 71. ordover  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    There has to be something more than Evolution determining whether you become Loving, Kind and sympathetic, because those traits in themselves dont determine whether the species survives. In fact for the most part they have nothing to do with survival.

    That is categorically untrue.

    Evolution (or genetics) determines altruism, and that has been scientifically demonstrated.

    Altruistic traits do, in fact, have a lot to do with survival. Here is an example:
    “Imagine a gene which causes its bearer to behave altruistically towards other organisms, e.g. by sharing food with them. Organisms without the gene are selfish — they keep all their food for themselves, and sometimes get handouts from the altruists. Clearly the altruists will be at a fitness disadvantage, so we should expect the altruistic gene to be eliminated from the population. However, suppose that altruists are discriminating in who they share food with. They do not share with just anybody, but only with their relatives. This immediately changes things. For relatives are genetically similar — they share genes with one another. So when an organism carrying the altruistic gene shares his food, there is a certain probability that the recipients of the food will also carry copies of that gene. (How probable depends on how closely related they are.) This means that the altruistic gene can in principle spread by natural selection. The gene causes an organism to behave in a way which reduces its own fitness but boosts the fitness of its relatives — who have a greater than average chance of carrying the gene themselves. So the overall effect of the behaviour may be to increase the number of copies of the altruistic gene found in the next generation, and thus the incidence of the altruistic behaviour itself.”

    You can read the rest of the excerpt from the definition of Biological Altruism from Stanford University in part 2 Kin Selection and Inclusive Fitness.

  • 72. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Ordover

    Ok if that is true and altruism is a Evolutionary adaptation, then why arent more people doing it. I mean per capita. Do you think there are more Altruistic and Loving people than when King Tut was around?

  • 73. ordover  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    My brain just needs something more than Evolution to make the “good” choice, because if I rely on the survival of the fittest mentality, well oh boy look out.

    You’re not understanding the basics of altruism. Sometimes, the nicest are actually the fittest.

  • 74. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Ordover

    I will mosey on over to your site so we dont clog this one, ok?

  • 75. ordover  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Ok if that is true and altruism is a Evolutionary adaptation, then why arent more people doing it. I mean per capita. Do you think there are more Altruistic and Loving people than when King Tut was around?

    First of all, evolution takes a lot longer to work than a few thousand years, so the King Tut question is a non sequitur.

    I would argue that all humans display altruism with the exception sociopaths. Most of this altruism is presented in kin relations. Mothers love their children and sacrifice for them. They don’t have to, but they do. Cousins love their cousins. Uncles love their nephews. This often extends outside of kin relations and can be seen in our ability to empathize. We might not all donate regularly to charity, but we can all feel sadness for those who have to go hungry. We can imagine what it is like to be cold and hungry and poor. Whether we act on our empathy is a personal decision, but the ability to empathize is what altruism is.

  • 76. ordover  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    john t.,

    I will mosey on over to your site so we dont clog this one, ok?

    If you don’t mind, I would prefer we take this discussion to the de-con forum, http://www.de-conversion.org/forum/index.php

    I don’t currently have an articles on altruism, and I’d like to keep the discussion open to other participants. I’ll go ahead and start a new thread.

  • 77. ubi dubium  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Johnt
    Mugabe may have reproduced successfully (so far), but he has harmed the overall fitness of the group which he and his children must rely on for support (Zimbabwe). So the probability of success for his extended family, grandchildren and great-grandchildren is now reduced. Overall, I’m pretty sure that Mugabe’s present behavior will not result in significantly more copies of his genes showing up in the gene pool down the road.

    I’ll sign off this discussion for now, and maybe check in later at ordover’s blog.

  • 78. Obi  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    John T. —

    By all means, let yourself loose! Let your “survival of the fittest” mentality out of that cage, and rage around in the streets killing and hurting everything you can. Like I said before, humans as social animals have evolved to do the opposite of that, and it shows in the societal constructs that they erect to care for all members of society. In this case, that would be the police that come to arrest you for your misconduct.

    Since you haven’t understood up ’til this point, let me repeat myself once more to hammer the point on home…

    Humans are social animals, and therefore it is to their benefit to take care of each other, as they depend on each other. Doing so is a method of survival of the fittest. Evolution works on populations, not individuals. The population, or society, of humans that enacts laws to protect everyone is able to survive, whereas the one that lets all hell break loose self-destructs within the blink of an eye.

    But of course, why accept this substantiated explanation when you could just go for the “Hurr hurr, Goddidit”?

  • 79. john t.  |  August 18, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Obi

    I agree there are some social animals out there. But what about the ones that arent. Are you going to tell me we are better now than we were lets say 15000 years ago. Do we murder less now? Do we rape less now? Come on, look at the world out there and try to tell me we are Evolving to a more Altruistic state. Im not talking about what you see in your own backyard. Im talking about the overall world we live in.

  • 80. ubi dubium  |  August 18, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Are you going to tell me we are better now than we were lets say 15000 years ago. Do we murder less now? Do we rape less now?

    Well, if you look at stories from the bible, it looks like we are about the same. We’re certainly not worse now. How much of the OT is devoted to accounts of Bronze-age tribes killing each other? (We just have better weapons now that are more efficient at it.) Plus 15,000 years is an eyeblink in geologic time. Most species do not change perceiptibly in 15,000 years.

  • 81. john t.  |  August 19, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Ubi Dubium

    Im talking Evolution, not bible. Do you think were evolving to a more Altruistic state of being?

  • 82. Mark C.  |  August 19, 2008 at 12:54 am

    For everyone stating that belief in the reality of evolution would justify bad behavior: you really don’t get it. The theory of evolution is an explanatory tool, just like theories of gravity. Accepting the fact that evolution happens and understanding how it happens in no way implies that we should do bad things, just as accepting theories of gravity in no way implies that we should always try to be located underneath everything else.

    Please stop ranting and raving about belief in evolution justifying bad behavior–said belief, and the theory associated with evolution, prescribe nothing.

  • 83. ordover  |  August 19, 2008 at 2:49 am

    If anyone else would like to join in (ubi dubium?), there is a thread on the de-conversion forum about altruism.

  • 84. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 19, 2008 at 3:58 am

    Wow, this thread really took off in the brief time I’ve been away. I’d like to respond to Echo that I did not mean only my prayer, but all prayers. It was God’s non-response to my own prayer that sealed the deal, so to speak, but it was the inefficacy of prayer in general that started me down the path.

    Specifically, I remember reading an article about some Christian Scientists whose daughter died because they refused to take her to a doctor to have her treated for diabetes, opting instead to pray. My first thought was regarding the idiocy of the parents, that they should have gone to see a doctor. Immediately following that, I asked “why wasn’t praying to God enough? They clearly had enough faith, why didn’t God heal their daughter?”

    You could argue that God intended to use the doctors to heal her, and the parents misinterpreted what God’s will, but what about parents of children with diabetes before treatment was discovered? What about all the miraculous healings in the bible that don’t involve other people? Doesn’t it seem awfully curious that God’s prayer answer rate is exactly what we’d expect if God didn’t exist and it was all just chance?

    And frankly, why shouldn’t I reject God based on my own prayers? I was specifically told by a pastor, in line with scripture, that if I sought God, I would find him, and this did not happen. Clearly, at this point I can reject the Christian God at least. At that point, I have seen no evidence to point to any other active God, and no reason to believe that there’s a non-active God, and that leaves me at atheism.

  • 85. Mark C.  |  August 19, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Saying that prayers get answered obscurely through normal, everyday events is just making excuses. It’s a win-win situation for the person who believes that prayers do get answered.

  • 86. Rover  |  August 19, 2008 at 9:46 am

    John T.

    Maybe the atheist lives for the same purpose that I do as a christian. Maybe they love thier family and want them to thrive. Maybe they love their community and want to see it improve. Maybe they enjoy nature and don’t want to see it destroyed. Does believing in a higher power that is impersonal really give life any more meainging then not believing in such a power? If God is a “force” and we cannot “know” him then what kind of motivation does that give us to live with purpose. Maybe he is not benevolent and he enjoys seeing us struggle. Maybe we are one of many of his experiments and he really doesn’t care if we live or die. How is your concept of God any more motivating then an atheists concept? An athiest is motivated by the fact that they will survive and flourish if their community is healthy and sustainable. Seems like a decent motivation.

  • 87. Pete  |  August 19, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Altruism might be the product of natural selection pressure, that does not imply that we should expect to become completly more altruistic. There will be an ESS (evolutionary stable state) where the benefits equal out the costs of such behavior so that if it does advance it becomes advantages not to be altruistic. Think of it this way, if everyone stabbed each other in the back, and there was only one altruistic person, perhaps a mother who cares for who children, that altruistic person would have an advantage and spread her genes. If everyone was altruistic, sharing apsoolutly everything, and one person decided to take advantage of the system and take more of their share, that one person who have an advantage and spread their genes. So the ESS will fall somewhere in between.

    Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene” goes into great detail about ESS.

  • 88. Echo  |  August 19, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Why does God leave the task up to weak and limited humans when he could easily answer the prayers of millions and wipe out hunger in an instant? It makes no sense whatsoever.

    Obi—

    Let me ask this then:
    Why doesn’t God just save everyone without preaching the Gospel? He could just easily cause everyone to be saved couldn’t he? But he has elected not to work in that manner:

    For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe through the nonsense of our preaching.(1 Cor. 1:21)

    God has decided to use human means to preach a Gospel which will then supernaturally save. It makes no sense to us–why use men to preach the Gospel? Why not just save everyone supernaturally?

    Why doesn’t God wipe out hunger in an instant? Maybe for the same reason. We cannot understand how God works. To us it will make no sense. But that is because God is God. He wouldn’t be God if he followed OUR wisdom or suggestions would he?

  • 89. john t.  |  August 19, 2008 at 11:23 am

    “How is your concept of God any more motivating then an atheists concept” (Rover)

    Im not saying that my ideas are more motivating, Im just curious on how the atheist comes to their motivation. I pretty much agree with everything most Atheists say. I just disagree with one, I think theres a driving force to the Universe(whatever that may be) that goes beyond what we can detect at this moment, they dont.

  • 90. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 19, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Echo-

    He wouldn’t be God if he followed OUR wisdom or suggestions would he?

    Why wouldn’t he be? Why would God give us limited wisdom such that we can’t understand him? It sounds like you’re just making excuses. It sounds like the writers of scripture who make similar points are again just making excuses for a nonsensical God.

    Sure, it’s possible that God’s just “working in mysterious ways” that we can’t understand. Of course, it makes a lot more sense, and is a much simpler explanation to say that God simply doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t actively work in humans’ lives.

  • 91. Echo  |  August 19, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Sure, it’s possible that God’s just “working in mysterious ways” that we can’t understand. Of course, it makes a lot more sense, and is a much simpler explanation to say that God simply doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t actively work in humans’ lives.

    No—it doesn’t make more sense. God indeed has given us wisdom—but there are many things we simply cannot understand. One of those things is understanding the thoughts or ways of God, and how he works.

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, or my ways your ways, saith the Lord. For as the heaven is higher than the earth so are my thoughts above your thoughts, and my ways above your ways”.

    What makes far more sense is to say “I don’t understand why God doesn’t do this, or does that, but I am finite, He is infinite. I humble myself and accept that God is God”. Saying “God doesn’t make sense to me, therefore He doesn’t exist” is a rather foolish thing to do in my opinion.

  • 92. Echo  |  August 19, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    God has revealed himself in the Bible, and has given wisdom how to follow him. But it would be impossible for God to reveal an infinite will to a finite mind. All we can do is follow the “map”(the Bible) to the extent that God’s will has been shown to us. We cannot see the full spectrum of God’s will—neither does God expect us to understand all of it.

    God expects us to ask questions—that’s natural. But some things are just impossible for us to understand with our finite minds. We have to be humble enough to admit that, and let God be God.

  • 93. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 19, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Again, isn’t it awfully convenient that “God’s ways” look exactly like random chance in a godless universe?

  • 94. Echo  |  August 19, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Snuggly—

    Again, “God’s ways” can look like a number of things to us with our limited understanding. They may even look like random acts. But the Bible says:

    He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by [their] names.
    Great [is] our Lord, and of great power: his understanding [is] infinite. PS. 147:4,5)

    God knows exactly what he is doing. Remember, we live in a fallen world, where men’s wills rule. One group of men may provide needed food to a starving nation, and then the ruler of that nation, due to greed, steals that food. Man’s inhumanity to man causes the world’s problems.

    God’s understanding in infinite—-one day (very soon I hope) he will return to set all things right.

  • 95. LeoPardus  |  August 19, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Echo:

    Your name is a bit ironic. Most of us here are surely hearing echos of ourselves from times past. The same answers we gave, the same apologetics, the same ol’ same ol’.

    It’s all circular, insufficient, self-defeating, and frankly silly once you get outside the box you’re in. But it’s very hard to describe a world without the blinders and limitations you now think so indispensable.

    Suffice to say though, that you’re not saying anything we don’t all know. In fact we can do the apologetics and exegesis very well. You have nothing to teach us, but you might have something to learn. You may not want to learn it though. Certainly most of us did not.

  • 96. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 19, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    If the world looks exactly like I’d expect if God didn’t exist, then why should I believe that he does?

  • 97. Echo  |  August 19, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    LeoPardus—

    I understand what you’re saying. It is circular. But what it sounds like from some of the bloggers is this:

    “It appears to ME that God does not answer prayers. Why doesn’t God just cure all the diseases, and put an end to hunger? It doesn’t make any sense. And because it doesn’t make sense to ME therefore God must not exist”.

    It doesn’t make sense to me either–but then, I’m not God. So, you may have heard the same “rhetoric” over and over again (like an echo)–but perhaps you’re hearing it over and over again because your reasoning seems so flawed. BUT, I will do my best to try to understand where you are coming from–so bear with me.

  • 98. LeoPardus  |  August 19, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Echo:

    I don’t think most of us left the faith just because it didn’t make sense. We left because there was no evidence that any deity exists who is at all involved or concerned with humans.
    -No clear answers to any prayer (not just “wipe out hunger”, but even “make Uncle Joe a believer” or “protect my son in VietNam”).
    -No difference in the lives of believers compared to non-believers.
    -No angelic appearances, clear revelations, epiphanies, etc.

    You can look at any of the posts I put up that start with “Reasons I can no longer believe” and you can look at the post called, “Inconvenient categories” for more along the lines I’ve been on.

  • 99. Obi  |  August 19, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Echo —

    Haha, just the response that I expected — dodging the questions by using the “God works in mysterious ways” excuse. Why didn’t God work in “mysterious ways” when the Israelites asked for food? Why didn’t he work in “mysterious ways” when Elijah prayed for rain? He never stated that he would answer prayers in “mysterious ways”, he stated this…

    Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.

    How much clearer can he get? Jesus says that if two people on earth agree about anything that they ask for, God WILL do it. So why are the millions asking and praying continuously for one thing not receiving it It’s so plain to me that I can’t even imagine how another rationally thinking human could even begin to see otherwise. What type of God wouldn’t want to cease the suffering of millions of little children dying every year crying out for food but instead opt to work in “mysterious ways”, contrary to the very obvious ways that he supposedly used to work in, an simply let them die without solace? It boggles my mind.

    Anyway, I don’t think I’m going to convince you, much less get a good argument out of you, so I guess we might be done.

  • 100. Echo  |  August 19, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Obi—

    I appreciate your sentiments. But to ask “Why didn’t God do this?” or “Why didn’t God do that?” “Why did he provide manna to the Children of Israel, but work in “mysterious ways” at other times?” The answer is—none of us know. That is why He is called God.

    I have to ask Why did Jesus have to come and die on a cross? Why couldn’t God have just “willed” that everyone be saved? Why go through all of the suffering? Why die on a cross? Perhaps there is a lot more to the picture we do not understand. Is that a possibility??? Is it possible that we really just do not understand the reasons for a lot of what happens on the earth? To us it’s easy—“Hey—you’re God, just end hunger would you?” But man has a free will. This is a fallen world. God has chosen to use men and prayer to send out the Gospel. He has chosen to use prayer before he even acts on many things.

    Look at this verse:

    “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one”. (Ezekiel 22:30)

    God is saying that he is looking for someone to intercede for the people to withold his own judgment. That is a very strange thing to say don’t you think? Why would he NEED someone to intercede for the people? Why would he be looking for a man to pray before he acts? It is very mysterious—and again—maybe it’s because we do not understand the WHOLE STORY yet. “Here we see through a glass darkly—but then (in heaven) face to face” said Paul. But because we do not understand how God is working do we give up our faith? Do we think our own reason or intelligence is superior to an infinite Creator’s thoughts and will? Because he doesn’t do stuff the way we think it should be done do we then sit on the throne, and push Him off, and call ourselves God denying his existence?

  • 101. Obi  |  August 19, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Echo —

    Or maybe… just maybe, God doesn’t exist. That immediately relieves us of all of the huge contradictions and broken promises, and it relieves you of the need to use excuses in an attempt to explain them away. I think someone mentioned the irony of your moniker before, and it’s even more apparent here. I don’t need you to offer me your platitudes about needing to “have faith” and not use our “limited” human reason. For one, I’ve heard them all before (before they Echo’d back to me). Not only that, but they simply don’t make sense. Reason and logic are the only ways we can decipher what gods are real and what gods are not. The real god(s) wouldn’t want us to shut our brains off and simply take things on “faith”, otherwise we’d never be able to discern what’s actually true.

    You picked out a random Bible verse where God is supposedly saying that he is “looking for someone to intercede”. I’ve provided multiple Bible verses and passages where God does the work himself, showing that it is indeed possible, and in the situation I presented preferred, because no human organization could possibly deal with the problem of world starvation that plagues so many. Also, you didn’t even respond directly to the verse that I quoted where Jesus explicitly details the effectiveness of prayer. Instead, you give me vapid excuses about the mystery of God.

    *sigh*

  • 102. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 19, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    But because we do not understand how God is working do we give up our faith?

    No, but it’s a good reason to take a closer look. And then you realize that not only do you not understand how God is working, but that God isn’t working at all.

    Anyway, do you actually find these pathetic arguments for how we “can’t understand God” convincing? If you weren’t already a Christian, would such arguments convince you believe in Allah? Why not?

    Do we think our own reason or intelligence is superior to an infinite Creator’s thoughts and will?

    No, I don’t, but I do think they’re superior to a non-existent God and feeble attempts to defend him.

  • 103. Rover  |  August 20, 2008 at 8:41 am

    De cons,

    I just finished reading Anton Flew’s book on his conversion from atheism to theist. What do you think of this book? How about his argument about going from inanimate matter to self aware beings?

  • 104. john t.  |  August 20, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Snuggly

    “And then you realize that not only do you not understand how God is working, but that God isn’t working at all”(snuggly)

    Wouldnt it be more “Logical” to say that the Christian God that you once agreed with is no longer “Logically” possible in your mind.

  • 105. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 20, 2008 at 11:50 am

    john t., my point is that I don’t see any evidence that points to God.

  • 106. john t.  |  August 20, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    snuggly

    Maybe the evidence that points you to science points others to a creative force. Maybe its different perceptions for the same view.

  • 107. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 20, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    OK, I suppose I can revise my statement to say, “And then you realize that not only do you not understand how God is working, but that God isn’t working at all the way Christians claim.”

    From there, some of us (but certainly not all) go further to say that there not only isn’t a Christian God, but that there likely isn’t a God at all, or at least not a God that is in any discernible way active in the world.

  • 108. Obi  |  August 20, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Rover said, “How about his argument about going from inanimate matter to self aware beings?

    Argument from ignorance. We actually know quite a little bit about consciousness, and that knowledge grows slowly every day. Consciousness is an emergent property of inanimate matter that is arranged in a certain way. Oh, and speaking of arguments from ignorance, there’s not a single argument for the existence of god(s) that I’m aware of that doesn’t boil down to an argument from ignorance. Not a single one. And that definitely isn’t a good thing.

  • 109. Rover  |  August 20, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Obi,

    Can you recommend any sites that can explain this concept of developing consciousness to a person who is definitely not scientific?

  • 110. Bobbi Jo  |  August 20, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    “We actually know quite a little bit about consciousness, and that knowledge grows slowly every day. Consciousness is an emergent property of inanimate matter that is arranged in a certain way.”

    Obi, I’m intrigued. Do you have a website I can read more on this? Or, could you expand? I would like to know what has been found out on this, as this was something I have been wondering too. Thanks.

  • 111. LeoPardus  |  August 20, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Obi:

    Instead, you give me vapid excuses about the mystery of God.

    What more can you expect? The whole purpose of apologetics is to apologize for (try to make excuses for) a deity who never shows up in any way. In other words they are trying to create a defense for “my imagination is reality”. How can you get anything but vapidity from that?

  • 112. ordover  |  August 20, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I just finished reading Anton Flew’s book on his conversion from atheism to theist. What do you think of this book?

    Anthony Flew’s bogus book

    Read also the NYT article linked to from that article. There is also this NYT review.

  • 113. Obi  |  August 20, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Rover/Bobbi Jo —

    Francis Crick was known to have been interested in research about consciousness, here’s an article/paper by him as an introduction.

    http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~koch/crick-koch-cc-97.html

    The references cited at the end would also be great places to start as a jumping-off point.

    Also, here’s a massive amount of papers and research on the subject. Some of them might not be free to view though, as some journals only allow papers published within them to be accessed for a charge.

    http://consc.net/online/2

    Have fun reading, it’s damn interesting material.

    Leopardus —

    Sadly, yeah.
    :(

  • 114. greg  |  August 24, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    One thing a Christian needs to be aware of is that the majority isn’t always right. All creationist know that the majority of scientists believe in evolution. But does that mean that evolution is true and the bible is wrong? Does that mean that the 6 days of creation didn’t happen? People laughed when the Bible says that the world would be destroyed by fire until we entered the nuclear age. Now we have the technology to split the earth in half. People are always laughing at the bible and they always will. There are many prominant scientists that do not believe in evolution and that is all that I need to know. Christians/Creationist will never be in the majority and we shouldn’t expect to be. If you are a Christian, don’t doubt the Bible because some athiestic scientist claims that they proved evolution. 90% of evolutionist are athiest. There is a lot of evidence to support the Bible.

  • 115. orDover  |  August 24, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    All creationist know that the majority of scientists believe in evolution. But does that mean that evolution is true and the bible is wrong?

    Okay, so you’re saying that you shouldn’t base your decisions on what scientists say.

    There are many prominant scientists that do not believe in evolution and that is all that I need to know.

    Wait, now your saying that it’s okay to base you decisions on scientists, if those scientists happen to agree with your particular worldview?

    Christians/Creationist will never be in the majority and we shouldn’t expect to be.

    They used to be. Creationism was what everyone believed a few hundred years ago. Nearly every single scientists believed that the world was created by a god or a force. That all changed with the EVIDENCE provided by the new sciences of geology, paleontology, archeology, biology, genetics, and modern physics.

    If you are a Christian, don’t doubt the Bible because some athiestic scientist claims that they proved evolution.

    Yes please, don’t take anyone’s word for anything. Don’t listen to an atheistic scientists just because he in a scientist. Look at the evidence available, make your own decisions based on evidence and evidence alone, not words, whether they be spoken by an atheist scientists, a Christian pastor, or published in the Bible. The evidence that confirms evolution is out there for everyone to examine.

    There is a lot of evidence to support the Bible.

    Like what?

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Attention Christian Readers

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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