The sum of our hopes and fears

August 26, 2008 at 9:14 am 97 comments

“Belief cannot argue with unbelief, it can only preach to it.”

The above quote is by Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian who died about 30 years ago. He is revered among intellectual theologians and Popes alike.  I love this Barthian quote.  In fact, I find it self evident and quite enlightening.

I have a number of conspicuously un-read books on my shelf – most of which are there to make me look intelligent and learn-ed and to hide my Harry Potter books! One of these, which I bought a few of years ago during my “re evaluation,” is Twentieth-Century Western Philosophy of Religion. To be honest I no more than skimmed it, but I recently dug it out to look at this quote.

The writer expands Barth’s quote.

Religion is a matter of conversation, not argument, and there is no logical transition from unbelief to belief. Religious belief is not dependent on any philosophy it stands on its own terns. If the atheist claims that religious belief fails the test of rationality and then no rational person should accept it, religious belief can only confess its content and appeal to its authority.

So, of we look around us and analyise our society, what do we see? Some things we believe because we have been convincingly taught or convinced by way of reason – gravity, eco-cycle, germs-cause-diseases, earth-orbits-sun etc . It’s easy to see how we can convince someone of Newton’s laws of physics or aerodynamics or why we should wash our hands before we cook – we argue/reason with them.

So how do people become convinced of things without being reasoned with? Barth hits the nail squarely on the head… by being preached to.

Good decent, normally rational people can be made to believe all sorts or dubious things.  What is the common factor in this seeming irrationality, conspiracy theories, miracle cures and scare stories?  The common factors are our hopes and our fears. For these two powerful bedfellows, we willingly drop the level of evidence we require. 

Fear makes us terrified of pedophiles running amok!! Fear leads to conduct witch hunts. Fear of unseen conspiratorial forces and of being lied too lead a multitude of 9/11 conspiracies or moon landing shams or that the Jews are behind everything.

Hope of a cure lets people spend the housekeeping on homeopathy and crystals.  Hope of contacting a beloved relative leads to visiting clairvoyants.  Hope of looking 10 years younger keeps expensive face creams rolling off the shelves.  Hope of riches lets us dare to respond to “Nigerian Prince” emails etc. etc.

A quick look around shows that if you cannot prove your case through production of convincing evidence, then get out the snake oil for what ails you and the tales of eternal fiery lakes for the skeptics.

Another way to phase Barth’s quote would be

We cannot convince unbelievers by using the god-given rationale which has brought them out of the caves and a semblance of order to their society, we must preach to their hopes that there is a god who loves them and can guide them and answer their prayers and tell them that it will all be ok in the end…. and if that doesn’t work preach to their fears that there may be ‘more to life’ or indeed that there may a be correct doctrine or ritual to keep them out of hell.

Hardly inspiring.

- QuestionMonkey

Entry filed under: QuestionMonkey. Tags: , , , , , .

Thank God for Evolution, by Michael Dowd The de-conversion story of an Ashkenazi Jew

97 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brad Feaker  |  August 26, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    This should be required reading for a few commenters :-) Not sure it would work though…

  • 2. Joan Ball  |  August 26, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    What about the “conversation” part of Barth’s quote? I’d like to believe that it is possible for me to believe one thing and you believe another and for us both to have a deeper understanding of the whole by sharing (without preaching or persuading) the sum of it’s parts.

  • 3. rover  |  August 26, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Joan,

    Does “truth” matter in such a conversation?

  • 4. The Apostate  |  August 26, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Barth was one of the last great theologians who recognized the obvious when it comes to faith and reason – and still kept his faith. Such recognition, I believe, was common among many early church philosophers and was thoroughly held by Augustine, and a mature Aquinas, as well many during the Deistic-Theistic debates of the Enlightenment era and the 19th century.

    Joan, we are all for conversation. But what the commenter on the Barth quote (not Barth himself) said was very problematic. When was the last time being preached at equaled “conversation”? The problem with many interpreters is that they are trying to place Barth neatly into the new Emergent or Postmodern paradigm. While Barth does fit nicely at times with this perspective, he was not by any means a “postmodern” theologian (such as Rob Bell or Brian McLaren). Nor does the above quote imply such. Preaching is not conversing. Preaching is a one way street. Preaching is what happens when you go to church and you are unable to raise your hand when the preacher says something that is held to be assumed by the congregation of head-nodders, but is completely out of touch with the rest of reality (or even sound Biblical scholarship). Preaching is not a conversation. It is an audacious form of communication in which the speaker does not need to listen to anyone but the voice in their head.

  • 5. Joan Ball  |  August 26, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Hi Rover: I’m not sure what you are getting at–can you give me a little more question to go on?

  • 6. rover  |  August 26, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Joan,

    If someone like myself believes that the bible is true then there is little room for conversation with someone who thinks that truth can be arrived through a “blend” of ideas given birth by conversation. I, by claiming the exclusivity of fundatmental Christianity, refuse to have my mind opened to human ideas for such are from the devil. I can do nothing but preach because I alone have discovered the truth.
    Sounds pretty closed minded doesn’t it? Not much of a conversation can be had with people like me. However, if your faith is not based on revealed truth then are you really a Christian or merely religious. And if merely holding to a form of religion then what is there to discuss since basically anything we believe to be true is true. I am not trying to sound incoherent, but it really doesn’t take that much effort on my part to do so.

  • 7. Joan Ball  |  August 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Here’s my deal on all of this. I know it is not a popular stance in this corner of the world, but I do believe. I even believe the parts I don’t understand. That is my gig. You guys don’t believe. You did once, but now you don’t. I find that to be fascinating. It challenges me. It makes me think and wonder. That’s why I come here. To learn more. I have found you guys to be thoughtful and passionate and extremely helpful to me both in the mundane (book recommendations and help with blog links) and the esoteric. When I woke up this morning I had no idea who Barth was. But now, if it is true that…

    “Barth was one of the last great theologians who recognized the obvious when it comes to faith and reason – and still kept his faith. Such recognition, I believe, was common among many early church philosophers and was thoroughly held by Augustine, and a mature Aquinas, as well many during the Deistic-Theistic debates of the Enlightenment era and the 19th century.” (Apostate #4)

    …then I’d like to read him.

    I know it is a paradox, but I believe that there can be a “truth” but that I may never know it. I can just move toward a greater knowledge of it or away from it. At the moment I believe I am moving toward it. Time will tell…

  • 8. orDover  |  August 26, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I know it is a paradox, but I believe that there can be a “truth” but that I may never know it. I can just move toward a greater knowledge of it or away from it

    And that is why your comments here are always appreciated. The difference between someone like you and rover is that you admit that maybe, just maybe, you don’t know all there is to know. It’s impossible to converse with a person who is so sure of their own stance. You can’t have a two-way conversation unless you first admit that maybe you are wrong, or maybe there is another way.

    Someone like rover is at the hight of arrogance. “I can do nothing but preach because I alone have discovered the truth.” Wow.

    Being sure of your position and standing strong in your beliefs is one thing, but to outright claim that you alone know the truth, denying the fact that what you can “truth” cannot be verified, and refusing to admit that there is the possibility of you actually being mistaken is to exhibit nothing but immaturity, arrogance, and intellectual laziness.

  • 9. rover  |  August 26, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    orDover,

    I realize the absurdity of my position. I am thinking through these questions the way I should as fundamentalist. I am interested in Joan’s point of view as a new believer. I am taking my view to its logical extreme. When I say “my view” I mean the view that I am struggling with at this point in my life. It fascinates me the Barth could hold to his views and not feel the impact of compromise.

  • 10. Joan Ball  |  August 26, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Hi Rover: I would love to know more about what you mean by Barth holding “to his views without feeling the impact of compromise.”

  • 11. rover  |  August 26, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Joan,

    I hope you don’t mind that I find our reasons for being on this site most interesting. I am seemingly deconverting while you are converting. Barth was not what you would call a biblical inerrisist, yet he held to a basic Christian philosophy. If we do not have an accurrate record of Christ and what we call God then how can we have a defined theology? His acceptance of Christ seems to have been based on things outside of an innerant word. So here I am moving away from a fundamental Christianity and here you are moving into some form of Christianity. I cannot fathom being able to discuss a religion that is so tied a one book if I didn’t believe in that book. If your Christianity is not based on something objective it can never be disproven, but can it ever be validated? I am at the point where much of the bible no longer makes sense, yet I want to believe and I “feel” that Christianity is true. Someone will say, “then just go on believing”, but I don’t feel like I can live forever with that compromise. Believing in something that is false because I want it to be true. What kind of faith is that? That is why I am always so curious about what kind of Christian you will be.

  • 12. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 26, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    orDover-

    Someone like rover is at the hight of arrogance. “I can do nothing but preach because I alone have discovered the truth.” Wow.

    It’s been my impression that rover is currently struggling with doubt, and the post you were quoting was just him speaking from a fundamentalist Christian view as he understands it, not saying what he necessarily believes at this point.

    As he says, the idea that he has the truth as a Christian is exactly the idea that he is struggling with.

  • 13. john t.  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Rover and others.

    Just curious, why does a faith in God or a Creator have to have a Box? Cant it be flexible enough to include many aspects or do you feel that it has to be concrete? There is much from the Christian faith that rings true as from other faiths, why the need for it all to be true? Wouldnt that take away the mystery of our story?

  • 14. Obi  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    John T. —

    Perhaps because the majority of religious traditions are by their very nature rigid and inflexible, insisting that they have a corner on the truth? That is the point of religion…right?

  • 15. orDover  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    It’s been my impression that rover is currently struggling with doubt, and the post you were quoting was just him speaking from a fundamentalist Christian view as he understands it, not saying what he necessarily believes at this point.

    Ah. Well, then I should have said that that particular kind of fundamentalist position is the hight of arrogance, not rover.

  • 16. Joan Ball  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Hi Rover: The last sentence of your post (#11) highlights something that I continue to wonder about…this notion of “what kind of Christian” I will be. I must admit that I don’t get it. I don’t really feel compelled to pick a team. Sometimes I feel like the Goldilocks of Christianity. I am confident that I am better off in the house than in the woods. I have a perspective on living and being that I never had before. But the chairs, the beds and the porridge in here don’t always feel “just right.” That being said, I am convinced that is a people thing, not a God thing, so I keep on keepin’ on.

  • 17. Rover  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    orDover,

    I am going through and emotional trying time. Sometimes my thoughts are not always express as rationally as I would like. This deconversion stuff is not easy.

    John T.

    I suppose some can mix and match, but then, for me, it is no different then a nicely constructed fairy tale. If I dispose of one fairytale do I need another to take its place? Not likely. This is me thinking out loud

  • 18. Rover  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Joan,

    I suppose you are in a great place. Your faith is not built on a defined doctrine or a supernatural book, just your gut feeling. Who can prove that religion is false if it is based on a good feeling? No one. Once it becomes based on an source, ie, the bible, it can be torn apart. Any arguments proferred agains the bible, the historicity of Christ’s teachings, etc… really have not impact your belief system.

  • 19. orDover  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Rover,

    I am going through and emotional trying time. Sometimes my thoughts are not always express as rationally as I would like. This deconversion stuff is not easy.

    I completely understand how difficult it is. I’m sorry for being curt and jumping to conclusions.

    Who can prove that religion is false if it is based on a good feeling?

    The problem I have with this rationale is that our feelings are very often wrong.

    Yes, you can’t disprove something as vague as God that someone feels intuitively, but I don’t think an emotion, especially an unverifiable one, is a good reason to believe anything.

    We can be tricked by our emotions into making assumptions about the world around us. Many people look at the world and “feel” that it has a designer. They are seeing the organizing factor of natural selection and mislabeling it.

    I’ve been tricked by my emotions before. I’ve used this example before, so sorry if it’s getting old, but when I’m home alone I often am overwhelmed by the intuitive feeling that there is someone in my house, like a burglar. The feeling is so strong that I have to go around to every room, turn on all the lights, check under the bed, check behind the shower curtain, etc, and what I always learn is that I’ve been duped by my emotions into believing in something that wasn’t real.

  • 20. Joan Ball  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Rover: It appears that I have miscommunicated something here. I believe and follow the teachings of the Bible. I am actually rather orthodox in that respect.I just recognize that my relationship with the text is ever evolving. I do not understand everything and I am constantly learning. Interestingly, my relationship with the Bible is much like a scientist’s relationship with his or her research. With the culmination of each experiment there are questions for further study. That’s what happens to me with the Bible. I come to an understanding of one thing and it raises more questions. Which sends me back to it. I just don’t get bothered by that. I view my faith as more of a creative process than a linear one.

    Trust me, if I lived my life based upon my gut or good feelings I would spend my days smoking pot and eating Oreos.

  • 21. BigHouse  |  August 26, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    “You can’t have a two-way conversation unless you first admit that maybe you are wrong, or maybe there is another way.”

    This is hardly a market cornered by Christians. A lot of atheists approach debate with this very stance.

  • 22. orDover  |  August 26, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    This is hardly a market cornered by Christians. A lot of atheists approach debate with this very stance.

    I agree. I wasn’t trying to say that it was a uniquely Christian virtue, but it is one that they often hold.

  • 23. john t.  |  August 26, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Joan

    “Trust me, if I lived my life based upon my gut or good feelings I would spend my days smoking pot and eating Oreos.”

    Im sure you still do, its just that your feelings have matured and oreos and pot just dont cut it anymore. ;)

    Good thing you evolved to something rather constructive, it could have been crack.

  • 24. Joan Ball  |  August 26, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Hi John T: Actually, I “de-volved” way beyond pot and Oreos before I got sober about 12 years ago.

  • 25. john t.  |  August 26, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    LOL…. I know……….I was just making humour, or at least a bad attempt. Takes one to know one.

  • 26. Frances  |  August 26, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Dear Joan,

    If you are truly equating yourself to a scientist doing research, then what happens if your hypothesis is not proven by your experimentation? What if you discover, like many of us have, that christianity only begins with the end in mind? There is no room in christianity for any conclusion but the conclusions that the religion demands. It is a very small box to live in. And I should know, I lived in it for a long time.

  • 27. john t.  |  August 26, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Obi #14

    Thats the point though, they are not that rigid. The fact is they are interpretive. Many people have many different takes on what the writers were actually trying to say. If you choose to limit yourself by thinking that the interpretation has to be Fundamentalist, then by all means do so. The truth is there is a multitude of ways of reading all the scriptures of all the faiths and still have a sense that there is a creator. “Mind over matter …….If I dont mind it dont matter.” One thing I notice about Atheists that remind me of Fundamentalists is that they want or need absolutes.

  • 28. Joan Ball  |  August 26, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Frances: I think that both science and faith are much bigger than many people who use them as examples tend to allow. Few scientists would say that the principles and even laws that are touted as absolutes today are the “truth.” How could they, be when they require ceteris parabis conditions–or what is assumed–before the experiment even begins? That’s why they keep doing the research over and over again with slightly new parameters, comparing and contrasting results to get closer and closer to an ultimately unknowable truth. I love science. And I’ve grown to Iove this sometimes confounding but often surprising faith. But, in science as is faith, too many variables make it difficult to prove anything at all absolutely. And yet we keep trying to get our minds around the unexplainable, which I think is ultimately a good thing. Again, creative versus linear thinking and living.

    As usual, I find myself on the same road as many of the people on this site, just in a different direction. The same way that you believe you lived in a small box on the faith side, I feel like the atheistic, prove everything absolutely science box that I lived in for 30+ years got pretty small as well. That may be why I do not embrace many of the “I can prove it” positions in the faith community either. I believe that both God and the cosmos are vast…and even our best minds (scientific and theological) are pretty small in comparison. Does that mean there is no truth–or that I get to define truth based upon my best understanding? I don’t think so. I think we just need to learn to live in a world wrought with paradox and uncertainty, which we humans don’t do very well.

  • 29. Prodigal Daughter  |  August 26, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    I loved this post, it makes complete sense to me. I won’t jump in on the comments but wanted to thank Question Monkey for writing it.

  • 30. The Apostate  |  August 27, 2008 at 12:21 am

    john t. in comment 13,

    Just curious, why does a faith in God or a Creator have to have a Box?

    It doesn’t. Proto-orthodox, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, etc. etc. etc. Christians put God in a box for 2000+ years. Likewise, Muslims have done so for 1300+ years. But seeing as we have few Pagans, Buddhists, or Wiccans representing their faith here, we debate only with those who have conquered the nations.

    You will have to excuse the assumption that someone is a Christian of orthodox background unless otherwise stated – to do otherwise would be extremely problematic to the point of absurdity.

  • 31. orDover  |  August 27, 2008 at 2:10 am

    Few scientists would say that the principles and even laws that are touted as absolutes today are the “truth.” How could they, be when they require ceteris parabis conditions–or what is assumed–before the experiment even begins? That’s why they keep doing the research over and over again with slightly new parameters, comparing and contrasting results to get closer and closer to an ultimately unknowable truth…But, in science as is faith, too many variables make it difficult to prove anything at all absolutely.

    Yes, but scientists eventually give up. They may never be able to “prove a negative,” but after a certain amount of testing turns up negative results, they see that it is safe to assume that their hypothesis is negative. They don’t keep testing forever.

    Likewise, a theory like gravity may never be able to be proven absolutely, but it’s still safe to assume that when you drop an object it will fall to the ground.

    The difference between the scientific method and religious thought is that religious thought is going to keep testing forever, reworking the same old hypothesis a million times, regardless of how many negatives they come up with. That’s dogma.

    Science changes its mind in the face of evidence, religious thought clings to whatever its preconceived theories are despite evidence.

  • 32. qmonkey  |  August 27, 2008 at 4:05 am

    Prodigal Daughter – thanks

    I haven’t read thought all the comments, so im sure a lot of this has already moved on 4 or 5 times, but anyway…

    Joan –
    you seem to have an attitude of ‘I know its true, I don’t understand why/how’. I don’t mean this as empty antagonistic rhetoric BUT… when I started to think that this, it was one of the main catalysts for my de-conversion. If you need to read up on why you believe what you believe the question of ‘why bother’ IS a relevance. Not in a lazy or obnoxious way but in the sense that if you start from a position that something is ‘TRUE’ and then investigate ‘why/how’ all you will do is confirm that believe, not genuinely investigate it. You have to equally approach all religions and their texts with the same open mind – if you are to be fair.

    Although Rover says that your faith is built on gut feeling, rather than the book. Im not sure I agree… it’s a bit of a coincidence, im not sure you’d have a gut feeling re: Jesus etc if you had never heard of the bible.. or indeed been married to a church-going Christian. You talk about needing to ‘understand’ the bible… but that is assuming that it is a reliable account… you’ve already made a massive jump there. Are you aware that no one other than Christians accept that the bible is a reliable account? – especially the ‘miracles’ and such. Maybe you should read the Koran and try to understand it better… like millions of other loving, smart people in the world.

    In saying that – I’m not sure you care. i think you find it comforting, which is ok. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are approaching the bible/jesus with an open mind

  • 33. Obi  |  August 27, 2008 at 5:57 am

    John T. —

    I’d appreciate it if you dropped the presumptive attitude. You’ve no clue how I think or what my motives are. Thanks.

    Anyway, religions are definitely rigid in the sense that they all have strict rules (extending into all areas of your life), requirements to reach [favourable afterlife destination here] and guidelines to avoid [unfavourable afterlife destination here], et cetera. No one’s stopping your from picking and choosing, except the exclusive nature of the majority of religions to begin with. Wasn’t it the biblical God who stated “You shall have no other gods but me,” and also sought to purge Israel of the influence of other religions by commanding that unbelievers/false prophets seeking to convert others be killed? That’s an example that seems rigid to me.

  • 34. Rover  |  August 27, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Joan,

    Here is what I am getting at in a nutshell. If your faith is based on the Bible and you believe the Bible is accurrate then you will find yourself in one of the many Chrisitian camps whether you like it or not. Any intelligent person who studies anything will evenutally come to a conclusion of some kind.
    If you base your faith on the Bible then shouldn’t you be able to test the Bible to see if it is worthy of faith?
    If it fails the test of reliability and you choose to believe anyway isn’t that a faith based more on inutiition then imperical evidence?

  • 35. john t.  |  August 27, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Obi

    The reason Im being Presumptive is because the idea of religions being exclusive is again dependant on whos reading what. I will say again, not all people read scriptures the same way, so why is it that you assume that religious people are reading it the same way you do? And if you are basing it on the people that read it exclusively, does that mean you believe their interpretation? Why not view it from the ones who dont? Just a question or curiousity of mine.

  • 36. The Apostate  |  August 27, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I will say again, not all people read scriptures the same way, so why is it that you assume that religious people are reading it the same way you do?

    Yes, and some people read it anyway they like, despite what the original authors obviously intended (something that can be discovered by careful study of the text and its context). We currently live in a pluralistic society because the world has been opened up through various means of communication. People who read Jesus and Mohammad through this lens need to be slapped in the face. The little rabbi from first century palestine did not go around giving everybody hugs.

  • 37. john t.  |  August 27, 2008 at 10:01 am

    “Yes, and some people read it anyway they like, despite what the original authors obviously intended (something that can be discovered by careful study of the text and its context)” The Apostate

    Not so sure I agree with you here. I notice that again there are many interpretations even when it comes to context. Again who knows exactly what the authors meant. And to top it off, what if they were poets and all the interpreters who think it was meant literally were way off base. I am going to make another assumption here, but arent most of the authors on this site former evangelicals, and if so wouldnt their view of how people read scriptures be coloured by their experiences?

  • 38. Joan Ball  |  August 27, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Good morning all (at least it is morning in NY)…

    Hi qmonkey: Saying that my attitude is one of ‘I know its true, I don’t understand why/how’ is a bit of a stretch. As I said earlier, I do not profess to “know” all truth because that would make me God and I am not God. Also, I think you may be doing to me what you accuse many people on this site of doing to you–assuming that I came to my belief without reading or studying or considering or experiencing life on both sides of faith. I assure you, my position on faith has been well considered. Unlike the folks you may encounter elsewhere, I did not start from a position of truth and fill in the blanks. I spent 37 years absolutely sure that Christianity was a bunch of crap. When I entered it, I had no desire to do so. My time as a Christian has been anything but comforting, as you assert. As a matter of fact, my life went from comfortable and happy to immensely challenging in the wake of my conversion. These have been the most difficult 5 years of my life. No angels, harps and choirs for me.

    As for equally approaching all religions, I did a lot of that in my 20s and they all came up short for me–that’s how I landed as an atheist. I know that others don’t believe what I believe now and that is outside of my influence. I also am well aware that there are many questions about when and how the Bible was written and put together. I am just willing to live in that uncertainty as more continues to be revealed.

    At the end of your post your tone changes and you begin to get, dare I say, a bit snarky–“Maybe you should read the Koran and try to understand it better… like millions of other loving, smart people in the world.” and “I’m not sure you care. i think you find it comforting, which is ok. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are approaching the bible/jesus with an open mind.”

    Not sure where that comes from. I have nothing against Muslims and,I have about as much open mind as anyone else who comes to a question with their own stories and experiences. All I can do is the best I can do.

    orDover: I still have enough questions and evidence in favor of my faith to keep on pursuing it. Thomas Edison tended to keep his hooks in longer than logic might have dictated as well (I would insert one of those little happy faces here, but I forget how to do it.)

    Rover: I don’t believe that I will “wind up in one of the Christian camps whether I like it or not” I think that presumes that I will eventually get the “answer” or that having some absolute “answer” is even my goal. This goes back to the earlier Goldilocks comment–I find each of the “camps” have some strengths and some weaknesses, which is probably because they are trying to explain the unexplainable in a way that will fit into a communicable package. I can understand why one would try to do that, but ultimately this is faith we are talking about. Belief in the unseen. The day I have all the “impirical evidence’ I need to prove it is the day I will have abandoned it.

  • 39. Brad Feaker  |  August 27, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Joan,

    I still have enough questions and evidence in favor of my faith to keep on pursuing it.

    I am curious – what standard of ‘evidence’ are you using? And what is your evidence? Not trying to be derogatory – just interested.

    Brad

  • 40. Yurka  |  August 27, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Question Imagodei, you are drawing false parallels. Christianity would assert that unbelief cannot be reasoned with since the unbeliever is unreasonable and rebellious.

    It is not dealing with a phenomena in which a) all persons have the capacity to perceive, b) all persons would have the willingness to perceive, which would be things like the force of gravity, aerodynamics, sanitation, or any mundane synthetic proposition (how tall such and such a person is, for example).

    And as for the comparison with people who believe in what is demonstrably false such as crystals, clairvoyants and e-scams, I could just as easily turn your comparison on its head and say that you are like the believer in crystals and clairvoyants.

    You also bring up hopes and fears in the context of determining moral decisions. But what is wrong with that? Decons do exactly the same thing when making moral choices and there is nothing wrong with that. And don’t you think it’s a good thing that pedophiles are not allowed to run amok? And what does morality have to do with whether proposition X is true or not, which your post seemed to be about? (remember … is’s and ought’s). You seem to be changing the subject.

    I’m repeatedly told that decons are actually people who knew and studied Christian doctrine and rejected it anyway. I see little evidence of that here.

  • 41. LeoPardus  |  August 27, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I’m impressed with post #40. It actually seems to make no sense at all.

  • 42. Yurka  |  August 27, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    I get the impression that if LP were ever losing a debate, he would robotically repeat ‘what my opponent says makes no sense’, no matter what his opponent said.

    He’d never get into specifics, just throw the adult equivalent of a temper tantrum. And I thought skeptics were supposed to be intellectual. Sheesh.

  • 43. orDover  |  August 27, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I still have enough questions and evidence in favor of my faith to keep on pursuing it. Thomas Edison tended to keep his hooks in longer than logic might have dictated as well.

    That’s fine, and I understand your position. But ask a few Christians what it would take for them to stop believing in god, to give up their hypothesis, and they will tell you “Nothing! I will always believe in God no matter what!” If Edison was pressed I’m sure he would have told you what it would take for him to give up on a hypothesis or invention. Saying that you’ll never change your mind is a very unscientific position to hold, and like I said, nothing but dogma at that point.

  • 44. john t.  |  August 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Leo

    I think Im going to agree with you on this one ;)

  • 45. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 27, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Yurka, I believe at this point it’s easier to point out what did make sense in your post.

    Christianity would assert that unbelief cannot be reasoned with since the unbeliever is unreasonable and rebellious.

    I think this assertion is absurd, and QM was quoting Karl Barth, not “Christianity,” so your point is kinda moot, but at least I understand it.

    And as for the comparison with people who believe in what is demonstrably false such as crystals, clairvoyants and e-scams, I could just as easily turn your comparison on its head and say that you are like the believer in crystals and clairvoyants.

    Again, I understand this, but I think it’s absurd. We are basing our views on evidence, which is completely unlike the believer in such nonsense.

    You also bring up hopes and fears in the context of determining moral decisions. But what is wrong with that? Decons do exactly the same thing when making moral choices and there is nothing wrong with that. And don’t you think it’s a good thing that pedophiles are not allowed to run amok?

    Well, this makes sense, but it’s easily defeated. When we start making decisions based on fear, we start giving up freedoms we don’t need to give up. Taken to the extreme, I lock my children in my basement to protect them from pedophiles, and end up doing more harm than good. It’s a good idea to protect ourselves from harm, but you need to be rational about it instead of letting emotion drive your decisions.

    The rest of your post makes absolutely no sense at all. At all. I have no idea what point you were trying to get across, either.

  • 46. Joan Ball  |  August 27, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    orDover: I agree that many Christians might give that answer. I am just not one of them. I would like to think that my faith would endure anything, but I cannot be sure until I face that thing or those things that might be the most potent force in opposition to it. I haven’t encountered the worst of them yet I guess, but someday I may. I think that is part of my interest in the folks on this site. I cannot (an will not try) to speak for your experiences, but I believe that a complete loss of faith on my part might just be its own test of faith. I’ve often sensed that it is something that I might eventually deal with and I am not sure how I will when and if it happens. It is like an Air Force pilot who is trained to endure capture. You’d like to think you that you would persevere and stay the course, but maybe you are the one who talks. That is why I try to leave “Ebenezers” along the way, just in case.

    Brad: My evidence is personal rather than provable. Something happened to me and I am different. That difference happened in an instant and was not the result of preaching or teaching or traditional steps. It has been quite difficult for me to find people to guide me on this journey because most of the people I have approached have no idea what to do with me. It’s all pretty weird, actually. Thankfully there are a handful of folks (mostly in the monastic tradition, although there are a couple of evangelicals) that are walking along with me. I even think there might be a couple of people on this site that are part of my journey toward a better understanding of God–as contradictary as that might sound. I am grateful to have found you.

  • 47. john t.  |  August 27, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Joan

    “I even think there might be a couple of people on this site that are part of my journey toward a better understanding of God–as contradictary as that might sound. I am grateful to have found you.”

    Whether someone believes in a creator or not, were all on the same ride. LOL. Kicking and screaming……Yaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  • 48. bipolar2  |  August 27, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Karl Barth steals from Kierkegaard. Xianity is a mega-cult. An irrationalist view taken in direct opposition to forces hated by the very earliest church: judaism and Greek philosophy, especially skepticism, stoicism, and epicureanism. For believers see: 1Cor1 25-27. Barth’s fideism is old stuff.

    ** Becoming-who-you-are requires skepticism and self-assertion **

    The word ‘islam’ means submission. Obviously submission to the will of Allah, as prescribed in the five pillars of faith. The big-3 monotheisms are alike in dismissing an individual’s will — “not my will but thy will done” as we’re shown in the poignant scene at Gethsemane in the NT. (But, the xian god-man is no hero.)

    For any cult, self-assertion takes on the character not of honest questioning and personal growth, but of insubordination and rebellion. (Can’t be godly unless you obey.)

    >> One sick danish strudel, to go, please

    With characteristic, combative verve, Kierkegaard condemns the doubter as insubordinate, a rebel against xian fideism:

    “They would have us believe that objections against Christianity come from doubt. This is always a misunderstanding. Objections against Christianity come from insubordination, unwillingness to obey, rebellion against all authority. Therefore, they have been beating the air against the objectors, because they have fought intellectually [against] doubt, instead of fighting ethically [against] rebellion. . . .So it is not properly doubt but insubordination.” (Lowrie 122)

    Thus, SK. Almost needless to say, but his rhetoric works equally “well” in the mouth of any fideist muslim or jew.

    >> Got guilt? Well, why not, sinner?

    Even attempting to leave a religious culture which demands ’subordination’ or ’submission’ to someone else’s interpretation of an alleged “will of god” adversely affects the psychological well-being of the “apostate.” Irrational anxiety feelings get induced. Guilt is the nonexistent elder brother of nonexistent “sin.”

    Becoming-who-you-are or “individuation” (to use Jung’s terminology) is the goal of personal growth. It cannot occur without self-doubt or without doubting authority and authority figures. When you’ve made a “leap of faith” into hyper-religious space there is no return except by self-assertion, and doubt is just a form of it. You emulate not Jesus, but Odysseus. The hero labors, struggles, succeeds or dies trying; but throughout remains human.

    >> Religious “commitment” is not a choice; it’s a moral cop-out

    Irrational self-assertion characterizes our popular culture. Irrational fideism characterizes fundamentalism. One “commitment” to Christ and you drop into the womb of unknowing. “Rebirth” is a pale substitute for individuation.

    Tolerance, that wide band of humane behavior including rational self-assertion, lies between inhuman anarchy and inhuman puritanism. Trying to navigate in that band requires years of training and making a lot of mistakes. And, there is no end to learning which is a human, very human joy.

    bipolar2
    © 2008

  • 49. The Apostate  |  August 28, 2008 at 2:14 am

    John T.

    Obviously we cannot know everything, or even much of what the original authors intended. When it comes to the NT, however, we do know beyond a reasonable doubt that they were not poets. Paul and some others may use earlier Christ-hymns and kergyma, but nothing insinuates that they were wandering minstrels using constant symbolic language of any sort (except the apocalypse of John). Of course, I recognize this is not what you were arguing. What I am saying is that there are certain items of consensus among Jesus scholars, be them conservative mainstream Christians or liberal skeptics. It is the random armchair theologian who fling their crud our way who really has not one ounce of interpretative logic who makes Jesus into literally whatever they want.

    And of course we are coloured by our past, but this is why we don’t stop searching. If I was to sit around and read Robert Funk and Burton Mack all year long, then yes, I will constantly be jaded by an almost anti-Christian sentiment. Instead, I, like many others here, chose to read and engage with the entire spectrum of theological thought. Part of being a “de-convert” in the first place is proving to yourself that you can admit you are capable of being drastically wrong. This is what separate us from many other atheist/skeptics as well as believers. My “Jesus” is going to be fashioned by the one that makes the most sense to me, which I can only attain by the scholastic framework I have situated myself in. To me, it is a more reasonable method than my previous one as well as several others I have investigated since turning away from traditional Christianity (including gnostic, emergent, and “pagan” Christianity, as well as inquiries into the occult and Mahayana Buddhism).

  • 50. john t.  |  August 28, 2008 at 7:40 am

    The Apostate

    I understand what you mean when the average individual tries to interpret totally on his own understanding, hence the armchair theologian. I am not arguing for Christianity here so bear with me. Have you ever read the book “The inescapable Love of God” by Thomas Talbott. It was interesting in that this author makes a compelling case for a very different reading of the NT and what Paul was actually trying to say. Not only was he Logical in the way he presented his argument, it was also quite believable considering most believe God is a supposed creator and being of Love. The thing I find interesting is that it pretty much goes against most of what I hear Christianity spewing out, yet it seems to be the only idea that grabs the Essence of what Christ was supposed to be. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

  • 51. ordover  |  August 28, 2008 at 10:47 am

    …nothing insinuates that they were wandering minstrels using constant symbolic language of any sort (except the apocalypse of John).

    And yet how many fundamentalists attempt to read it literally…

  • 52. Brad Feaker  |  August 28, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Joan,

    My evidence is personal rather than provable

    Thanks for the reply. All I would urge you to do is keep examining those experiences with a skeptical eye before attributing it to a supernatural cause. Good luck to you on your journey – which is just the opposite of mine :-)

  • 53. edwinhere  |  August 28, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Comment 45 by SnugglyBuffalo is very elegant.

    Was Yurka (Comment 40) a random drive by Christian? He sure looks like one, because he doesn’t leave any contact information.

    BTW Thanks for this article, I loved it.

  • 54. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 29, 2008 at 2:59 am

    Not a drive-by, you can find Yurka’s posts going back a fair ways into the archives. This is pretty representative of his posts, though.

  • 55. ScottL  |  August 30, 2008 at 9:12 am

    The quote by Barth was, ‘Belief cannot argue with unbelief, it can only preach to it.’

    While Barth was one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, it does not necessarily mean that we build a solid foundation upon that one statement, also not knowing the full context of what was being explained by Barth. In one sense, I understand Barth’s words (barring the context), but it is not anything we build empirical evidence upon.

    Having said that, the word ‘preach’ simply means proclaim, and that can come in many forms. I know, for most of us, ‘preaching’ makes us uncomfortable because we imagine the person on the corner of the street with a yelling tone, which is overall not helpful. And we also generally see the homily as a monologue rather than dialogue, and that is usually the nature of it. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that a homily is bad. Blogging is a form of unspoken homily, in that it is a monologue, though thankfully we have comment boxes to interact. But even in scientific presentations, they are more homily than dialogue, though some include Q & A sessions, which is helpful. Even someone like Dawkins ‘preached’ an emotional homily in The God Delusion appealing more to people’s emotions that might have already been in the agnostic-atheist camp rather than faithfully and more objectively looking at the ‘other side of the coin’.

    I believe that, for those willing to look objectively (as much as possible) at religion (Christian or other), I think we can realize that it’s only foundation is not just preaching, in the sense of an emotional call to the hopes and fears of people, though I would not deny that aspect as well. Religion is a reasonable response for the 6.8 billion people in the earth – most of them believe in some deity/deities, and they are all not unreasonable, are they? Though some are not as intelligent, in the scientific definition of intelligence, as others in the ‘western world’, many people have chosen to follow Christianity or another religion because it is a reasonable response. It is a worldview that makes reasonable sense. I am not meaning that all the evidence is out there, for can we actually point to God and say, ‘There he is’? No. But, after looking at many ‘proofs’ and ‘evidences’, people who are religious have made a reasonable response. Even science does not have all the evidence. Even Darwinism is an educated hypothesis after considering all the scientific evidence that we can. We will never be able to empirically prove 100% that Darwinian evolution is full fact (though some believe we will one day gain all the evidence to prove such).

    So, for the other author to comment about Barth in the Twentieth Century Western Philosophy of Religion:

    ‘Religion is a matter of conversation, not argument, and there is no logical transition from unbelief to belief. Religious belief is not dependent on any philosophy it stands on its own terns. If the atheist claims that religious belief fails the test of rationality and then no rational person should accept it, religious belief can only confess its content and appeal to its authority.’

    This is not an objectively accurate statement, is it? Yes, religion appeals to its authoritative Scriptures (Christianity appeals to the Bible), but that is not its only appeal. An objective look at religion realizes that a large amount of people also have examined other ‘evidences’ to consider the reasonableness of believing. And there are a lot of other ‘evidences’ to build a case upon to helpfully support what has already been established in a person’s mind through their religious authority. Nothing is ever 100%, again not even all of science and mathematics are 100% evidence-based. But rather we are looking at reasonable responses to the evidence we have, while looking to attain more.

    Sorry for the long comment, but in all, my point is that religion is not unevidenced, unproved, and simply based upon an emotional monological preaching. Religious people can refer to reason and evidence, all the while holding their religious authority as the greater importance, and appreciating a call to our hopes and fears, for all of humanity have such.

  • 56. Obi  |  August 30, 2008 at 10:29 am

    ScottL —

    Religion is a reasonable response for the 6.8 billion people in the earth – most of them believe in some deity/deities, and they are all not unreasonable, are they?

    I think you’re mistakenly equating a religion as a “reasonable response” in that there is a reason (fear of death and the unknown, mainly) that people adopt belief systems with a “reasonable response” in the sense that their beliefs have been arrived at through logic and support through empirical evidence, which is the definition of “reason” that I see most often. In that sense, religion is anything but reasonable, and people can be unreasonable in one belief — very much often religious beliefs and no others — while being reasonable in other beliefs simply because religion has carved itself a special “niche” in society, exempting itself from rational examination and standards for empirical evidence applied to all other beliefs.

    Even science does not have all the evidence. Even Darwinism is an educated hypothesis after considering all the scientific evidence that we can.

    However, science most definitely has more evidence than any religion for its claims and theories, because that’s simply what science is. It is evidentially substantied belief in contrast to the unsubstantiated blind faith of religious belief. Oh, and an “educated hypothesis”? Try theory.

    An objective look at religion realizes that a large amount of people also have examined other ‘evidences’ to consider the reasonableness of believing. And there are a lot of other ‘evidences’ to build a case upon to helpfully support what has already been established in a person’s mind through their religious authority.

    Ah, of course. Every religious believer has looked objectively at all of the evidence, which is why we have had thousands of religions and billions of believers throughout human history all claiming to have undeniable evidence pointing towards the existence of their gods. For every piece of evidence you bring up in support of your god(s), there are others in completely different religions who can do the same thing with different evidence, or even use the same evidence you have to support their god(s). It should be obvious that objective analysis of the same evidence shouldn’t lead to deviations in interpretation such as this, and it is only because of presuppositions based on holy books whose writers also based their analyses of evidence on presuppositions that such differences can come about.

    When one begins to step back from their religious tradition and take into account the fact that humans have been creating religions for at least 50,000 years and most definitely since the beginning of recorded history, one begins to realize that they are indeed purely human creations. If a God or gods really wanted to get in touch with us, they probably would have done it long ago so as to not leave anyone out (ruling out relatively newer religions, namely everything that is practiced today) and would have continued with a consistent message, creating one religion that would have stood the test of time. Instead, we see religions sprouting up everywhere, taking bits and pieces from each other while adding new myths and deities as whatever culture they spring up in sees fit. That should be an obvious sign that they are man-made and not divine, if we’re looking at things objectively, eh?

  • 57. Obi  |  August 30, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Damn italics on the last paragraph.

  • 58. john t.  |  August 30, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Obi Dubium

    “If a God or gods really wanted to get in touch with us, they probably would have done it long ago so as to not leave anyone out (ruling out relatively newer religions, namely everything that is practiced today) and would have continued with a consistent message, creating one religion that would have stood the test of time.”

    If there is a creator of some sort, why assume it would want awareness of it to be easy? Just like science part of the beauty of life is figuring out the Mystery. Seems to be a build in part of our psyche.

  • 59. john t.  |  August 30, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Oops I meant OBI

  • 60. Obi  |  August 30, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Why assume that it wouldn’t?

  • 61. HeIsSailing  |  August 30, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Obi asks:

    Why assume that it wouldn’t?

    Because when you assume things like this, you are doing exactly what I accuse most religious adherents of doing. You are making God into your own image.

    Often I hear religious skeptics say things like “If God were real, he would have done a better job of revealing himself to us than 2000+ year old Hebrew and Greek writings.

    Hold on a minute – that is what you and I would do – sure. But in our arguments against theists, we are assuming that we know what the most logical course of action that can be taken by their transcendent God. Do you claim to know the mind of ‘God’?

    john t has a point. Why assume that this ‘God’, if this God exists, would want to spoonfeed us with certainty of his existence? With certainty of what he wants from us? Maybe this God is only interested in people who give a damn enough to trouble themselves and go out to look for him. After all, don’t the Gospels portray Jesus as telling ambiguous parables with hidden meanings so that the local Galilean riff-raff would not understand? Didn’t this same Jesus often end this parables with “let he who has ears to hear, let him hear”??

    Maybe, just maybe, God offers more rewards to the atheist who has diligently sought him and found no evidence, than to the gullible Christian believer who just swallows every article of Faith that was fed to him, but has never taken it upon himself to actually do a little homework for himself.

    Maybe I am doing the same thing with such speculations – placing my mind into the mind of God.

    You cannot assume this about God because it is difficult to assume anything about God without making yourself into that God first.

  • 62. Joan Ball  |  August 30, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Obi:

    “Ah, of course. Every religious believer has looked objectively at all of the evidence, which is why we have had thousands of religions and billions of believers throughout human history all claiming to have undeniable evidence pointing towards the existence of their gods.”

    Do you think most believers would really “claim to have undeniable evidence”?

    HelsSailing:

    “Maybe, just maybe, God offers more rewards to the atheist who has diligently sought him and found no evidence, than to the gullible Christian believer who just swallows every article of Faith that was fed to him, but has never taken it upon himself to actually do a little homework for himself.”

    You bring up a point here that I have been thinking a lot about since coming around to this site. I’ve always been intrigued by the scripture that says you’re better off beeing hot, hot or cold, cold but lukewarm, not so much… Comes back to all of this holding bigger possibilities than I can put my finger on with rigid absolutes.

    P.S. Can someone remind me how to do italics and/or pull quotes? Thanks.

  • 63. HeIsSailing  |  August 30, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Joan Ball says:

    Comes back to all of this holding bigger possibilities than I can put my finger on with rigid absolutes.

    Joan, that is a great observation, and I share that as well. I left Christianity for sure, but I just cannot place myself firmly in the Dawkins/Hitchens camp of atheism. For most of my life, I was held under the most absolute certain conviction that my particular belief about God, Jesus and salvation was correct – more – that everyone who did not hold my beliefs about Jesus was not only wrong, but doomed to Hell for being wrong.

    I am ashamed that I held this thinking for most of my life. I promised my wife soon after leaving Christianity that I will never ever ever again make the mistake of claiming that I have absolute certainty about anything regarding spiritual matters ever again.

  • 64. HeIsSailing  |  August 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    quotes:

    insert text

    italics:
    insert text

    bold:
    insert text

    remove all spaces in the bracketed code. I hope this comes out ok.

  • 65. HeIsSailing  |  August 30, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    no it did not come out ok. sorry

  • 66. Joan Ball  |  August 30, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Hey HelsSailing: Couldn’t help but notice a mild contradiction in “I left Christianity for sure” and “I promised my wife soon after leaving Christianity that I will never ever ever again make the mistake of claiming that I have absolute certainty about anything regarding spiritual maters ever again.”

    It reminds me of that scene in Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey is told by the beautiful woman that his chances are dating a her are one-in-a-million and he smiles, nods and says “so you’re saying I still have a chance…”

    08)

  • 67. Joan Ball  |  August 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    By the way, I thought that 08) would be a smiley face…I’m a technical mess here…

  • 68. Obi  |  August 30, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    HeIsSailing —

    You understood me wrong. In saying “Why assume that it wouldn’t?”, I was hoping to start a discussion about assumptions with John T., by perhaps prodding him into replying by asking the inverse of his question.

    However, regarding the issue of assumptions, you can’t fault or criticize a skeptic for assuming that god(s) would want to communicate with humans because that’s the assumption that every religion in the world makes. I mean, what else is religion but the claims of humans that god(s) has/have communicated with them, and therefore want to communicate with them? Chastizing someone for holding such an assumption makes sense, but it’s also silly at the same time, because that’s an assumption that is ingrained in the vast majority of humans no matter what culture/society they are born into from the moment that they are born.

    Joan Bell, “Do you think most believers would really “claim to have undeniable evidence”?

    To be honest, what kind of question is that? If you’ve never run into or at least heard of someone who claims to have undeniable evidence supporting the truth of their religion, you must live under a rock. That’s not meant to be insulting, but I’m…suprised.

  • 69. john t.  |  August 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    HIS

    “I promised my wife soon after leaving Christianity that I will never ever ever again make the mistake of claiming that I have absolute certainty about anything regarding spiritual matters ever again.”

    Great Idea…..Im learning this lesson as well, stay away from the absolutes. Certainly helps my relationships and my Golf game ;)

  • 70. john t.  |  August 30, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    OBI

    I would assume a creator would like a little mystery, because that is exactly what I see in my world right now. So if Im going to believe in something I believe in the Mystery :)

  • 71. Obi  |  August 30, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Oh, and another thing.

    HeIsSaling and John T. —

    If you read over my last paragraph in #56 again, you’ll notice this sentence:

    Obi said, “If a God or gods really wanted to get in touch with us…

    Notice the word “if“, which I had hoped would have clearly shown that I didn’t believe that any god(s) wanted to communicate with us, but that I was stating what would be the case in the scenario that they were, as many religions believe they do.

  • 72. HeIsSailing  |  August 30, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Joan, I left Christianity for what I think are sound reasons. I have done enough reading and research into the religion that if the Christian evangelist wishes to argue me back into the faith, they have some mighty big hurdles to jump. My am convinced that my former beliefs were wrong – and if God holds me accountable for being convinced by the wrong arguments, then all I can say is that at least I was honest. At least I was one of the ones who actually gave enough of a damn to go through the effort to look for God and investigate the Christian religion and claims of truth.

    As far as me finding what is true – well that is a work in progress. My mind is still open to God or Jesus or whatever. But I won’t take claims about spiritual matters at face value ever again. You want me to believe? OK, but first I need a good reason to believe your claims. Show me.

    Not ‘your’ as in you specifically Joan, but the religious evangelist in the generic sense.

  • 73. Joan Ball  |  August 30, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Hi Obi: Yes, I have heard people say that they have undeniable evidence to support their faith, but that was not my question. My question was whether or not you truly believe that “most” people of faith (whatever faith that is) would say that.

    I was referencing your statement that there are…

    “billions of believers throughout human history all claiming to have undeniable evidence pointing towards the existence of their gods”

    which seems to be a bit overstated.

  • 74. HeIsSailing  |  August 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    “billions of believers throughout human history all claiming to have undeniable evidence pointing towards the existence of their gods”

    which seems to be a bit overstated.

    Definitely an overstatement. Most pastors with an apologetic bent berate their congregations for not understanding their ‘reasons to believe’. They understand that most congregants have no idea why they believe. My wife has no idea why she is Catholic other than her parents andgrandparents were also Catholic, and she has Faith because she claims it makes her a better person. For better or worse, I think that is the mindset of most religious adherents. Having Faith is, after all, the admission that there is no ‘undeniable evidence’.

  • 75. Obi  |  August 30, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Joan Bell and HeIsSailing —

    Regardless of the fact that you’re picking apart my post and completely missing its actual point and argument, I’d still say that both of you are mistaken, and that the majority of religious people have some experience that they hold on to to validate their belief, because they often want to tell themselves that it isn’t completely blind faith that supports their belief, although that’s what they fall back on when all else fails and their subjective “evidence” is questioned and critically examined. I’ve talked to many religious people and have heard and read about even more who claim to have had prayers answered, witnessed miracles, or seen visions or had encounters that provided undeniable evidence of the reality of their religion, so I’m definitely not making anything up.

    Feel free to criticize smaller parts of my post a little more, though. Maybe I didn’t dot an “i” or cross a “t”? Incorrect punctuation or spelling somewhere, guys?

  • 76. Joan Ball  |  August 30, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Hi Obi: So sorry if my question came across as a criticism. It certainly was not meant to be.

  • 77. BigHouse  |  August 30, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Wow, is there wonderful irony on Obi complaining that his posts are being too finely criticized…

  • 78. ScottL  |  August 30, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Obi –

    First of all, do note that I am only interacting. Nothing comes from an arrogant, opinionated point of view (the italics thing in my last comment was a mistake). I am trying to dialogue. And so I do thank you for the interaction.

    Religion must still be considered reasonable in that the word is defined as ‘having sound judgment, fair and sensible’. Reason has never been defined as that which is proved. Rather we use our reason, or fair judgment, in dealing with empirical evidence and proofs, but such evidence is not the definition of reason itself. We all make reasonable decisions in everyday life even without the evidence – such as pouring the milk without testing whether it went sour. I know that is simplistic, but regardless, the point is that making reasoned decisions is not always based upon empirical evidence. This is the basis of even scientific study. Scientists make reasonable decisions, choices, and develop theories based upon their reason, or fair judgment, even when not attaining all empirical evidence. It is the nature of life for the human race that is not able to gather all evidences and proofs for one thing or another.

    Yes, science does base itself on the knowledge of evidence, and that is a good thing. But my understanding of the Christian faith is that we are looking to make reasonable decisions based upon the evidence presented, even if one does not agree that something like the Bible is worth being noted as evidence. Some Christians might not care about evidence, but as a whole, we are willing to look at evidence, or I speak for myself. And even the Bible has a lot of historical and archaeological evidence in its favor. Christianity is not ‘blind faith’, by that I mean it is not unreasonably jumping into something where the evidence completely contradicts it, or there being not evidential support for it. Sure, there are questions, as in Darwinian evolution and other such things there are also questions. But it is not a blind faith and unreasonable response to the evidence. An agnostic or atheist might claim it is blind faith and not based upon evidence, but that is a very subjective statement not based in research. There is way too much scholarship developed in just the past 100 years to give reasonable evidence for the belief in a deity, and specifically in Christianity.

    In reality, no one can make a 100% objective decision about anything. We all come with our presuppositions, pre-understandings, and the filtered lens of our lives. Even in your reply I believe you are not objectively looking at the evidence, since you have referred to religious people as having blind faith. There is a lot of evidence and scholarship out there in support of religion in general, and Christianity specifically. Sure, there are many different expressions of religion, and so what we do is we need to consider the evidences, the proofs out there.

    I am not sure that due to the fact that there are multiple religions proves that they are man-made, or maybe by saying such you are trying to point to them being false. There are so many scientific expressions and theory spin-offs since the theory of Darwinian evolution was first developed in the mid-1800’s. But, of course, you would not say that proves Darwinism is wrong. Rather it is time that will probably be a great factor in pointing out what is true. Given enough time, we will have other scientific and religious sprouts. History has proven so. But that is no pointer to their ‘man-madeness’ or their lack of being based upon evidence.

    My point is not to convert one to Christianity, but my point is that we be objective and realize that there is much reasonable evidence in favor of religion, and specifically Christianity. You might reject it, but there is scholarship, philosophy, history, archaeology, linguistic studies, and much more in support of Christianity. Again, I allow for you to say that you will not accept the ‘evidences’. But I do believe that Christians make reasonable choices in a decision to follow One whom they believed was slaughtered on their behalf.

  • 79. Obi  |  August 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Joan said, “So sorry if my question came across as a criticism. It certainly was not meant to be.

    BigHouse said, “Wow, is there wonderful irony on Obi complaining that his posts are being too finely criticized…

    I never said that you shouldn’t criticize my posts (if you can find it and quote me as saying that, it would be wonderful BigHouse), I stated that I was annoyed that ultimately inconsequential parts of my posts were being picked at. I was expecting someone to address the larger, main points instead of whether or not a specific statement was hyperbole or not when that didn’t have much to do with the actual argument.

    Scott L —

    The main point here is that yes, there being thousands of different religions created in thousands of different cultures definitely points to them being man-made. As I previously stated, if you believe that some type of deity is attempting to contact humanity, why hasn’t there been one religion, established since humans first appeared on Earth (200,000 years ago) that has remained unchanged through divine providence, so that all humans can understand the divine message? Instead, we see that religions are created, disappear, evolve, and take beliefs and myths from each other continuously, which is simply what one would expect from man-made belief systems that were built upon the ideas of other humans as well as those within the culture that they develop in.

    An easy example would be Christianity, since we’re all familiar with it. Christianity borrows elements from Zoroastrianism (mainly through Judaism), as well as from local deities being worshipped at the time (the Dionysus-Osiris gods). However, this is just one religion. Islam borrows from Christianity, Buddhism and Hindusim have mixed and mingled with each other, the Romans borrowed a large amount of gods from the ancient Greeks, et cetera. Since we’re emphasizing objectivity here, imagine all of this from an outsiders point of view. Would you assume that one of these religions is absolutely correct and special among the thousands of others, or would you think that they were belief systems that were related to each other through a common thread of humanity, with ideas flowing and being borrowed as the humans making them saw fit?

    Also, “archaeological and historical evidence” for Christianity really doesn’t mean much, to be honest, and here’s why: you may have found evidence Jericho’s walls fell, the Israelites defeated the Midianites, or that Jesus lived and died in a far-flung province of the Roman Empire, but that’s not the evidence anyone wants. Do you have historical/archaeological evidence that God actively intervened in the lives of the Israelites, or that Jesus was resurrected? The parts of the Bible that can be verified by historical/archaeological evidence are that parts that no one cares about. Much of the Old Testament is a chronicle of Jewish history, and much of the New Testament is a chronicle of the history of the early church, and this is what “historical/archaeological evidence” supporting the Bible usually supports. However, can you support the more extraordinary claims of divine action? That’s what actually matters. No one really cares whether or not you can find fragments from the jars that they broke around Jericho.

  • 80. Quester  |  August 30, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    ScottL,

    How about telling us what the evidence is, instead of just saying there is some? Saying that Christians are being “reasonable” or that 100% objective decisions are impossible doesn’t tell us anything. If you have evidence, share it. If you don’t, quit claiming you’ve made a reasonable decision based on evidence. Fair?

  • 81. qmonkey  |  August 30, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Scott L.
    Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated.
    I would fully accept that theres a chance that i’m taking the Barth quote out of context. But in remains that i considered the quote to be interesting and revealing – and frankly, added a bit of lure and meat to my post. :)

    I consider your logic of your other comments to lead to the conclusion that your belief IS in fact rational (just mistaken, i’m my view). And far from being a positive, that is in fact a reason to think that the bible it ISN’T the work of a loving god. (the best rational decisions are made by the most intelligent and learn-ed people… does god only love them!?)

    http://qmonkey.wordpress.com/2008/08/08/religion-is-truly-rational/

  • 82. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 30, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Based on comment 64, I believe it’s time for a quick lesson in HTML.

    <em>italics</em>

    <strong>bold</strong>

    <blockquote>

    blockquote

    </blockquote>

    If you want to use the < and > symbols without turning the enclosed text into html, such as to do what I did above, you can use &lt; (for <, lt meaning “less than”) and &gt; (for >, gt meaning “greater than”). Of course, if you want to type an ampersand (&) followed by characters and a semicolon (;) without it turning into a symbol (such as &lt; becoming <) you type &amp; followed by the text you want (for instance, &amp;lt; to make it display &lt; in the browser).

    I hope that’s not too confusing.

  • 83. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 30, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Oh, and the &text; symbols will work for stopping the automatic conversion to smileys, at least in some basic testing I’ve done.

    For instance, ) will make a right parenthesis, and the blog won’t turn it into a smiley even if it’s preceded by a semicolon or an 8. It’s useful if you know for certain the blog will turn it into a smiley, at least.

  • 84. SnugglyBuffalo  |  August 30, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Here is a link to all the html symbol codes, for those interested.

    Also, I made a post that seems to have gotten lost in the spam filter, about the symbol code for the right parenthesis to prevent the blog’s automatic smileys.

  • 85. Joan Ball  |  August 31, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Thanks SnugglyB.

  • 86. ScottL  |  August 31, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Obi –

    You stated – ‘The main point here is that yes, there being thousands of different religions created in thousands of different cultures definitely points to them being man-made.’

    If you are pointing out that because something is ‘man-made’ that means it is false, then we have to deal with the fact that scientific theories and developments are also man-made. I know you will argue that it is based upon empirical evidence, but not all theories and scientific developments are based upon empirical evidence. Many times, it is using reasonable and fair judgment after considering what evidence has been found. But not all evidence has been found, and probably will never be found. Even so, these are still man-made. So, must we expect that because such scientific theories are man-made, then they are also false? Couldn’t someone, or multiple people, have misinterpreted the data? Possibly?

    I am not advocating relativism with science, or for a worldview such as Christianity. But it could be a relative interpretation of the data at hand. Yet, in the end, all I am saying is that because man has their hand in something, that does not mean it is false or misdirected. Possibly, but it is not a for sure thing. Something being ‘man-made’ is not evidence and proof that something is false. Again, it possibly could, but not always.

    You also asked – ‘As I previously stated, if you believe that some type of deity is attempting to contact humanity, why hasn’t there been one religion, established since humans first appeared on Earth (200,000 years ago) that has remained unchanged through divine providence, so that all humans can understand the divine message?’

    I hope it is ok to be honest and say that is a tough one. I know that we all would like our every question responded to with solid proof answers, but I am not sure I can give you such an empirical, dogmatic answer. From my own worldview perspective I do believe that we live in a world tainted by our own failures, even my own great faults. But I personally try and see the ‘glass as half-ful’l in that I believe God is making every effort possible to communicate with us – Scripture, creation, our own conscience, His Spirit, art, provision of scholars that have helped us consider theology in the development of all sciences, etc. But we have an adversary trying to thwart that communication. We are not robots, nor is the divine. Thus, I believe the ‘evidence’ is there that the divine is interested in communicating with us. To make everything simple and easy would take away from and lessen the importance of the journey and search.

    I don’t know if you have had children, but consider always giving them everything without them asking, searching for understanding themselves, etc. In general life, we raise our children to understand certain principles and how life works, but sometimes the best way for them to learn is by them asking and searching themselves. And many times it is a combination of both the child looking and the parent giving advice. Then when the child does find the answer, to even the simplest of things, the reward is that much sweeter. I know that is more a philosophical than a biologically scientific answer, but I do hope you understand the point.

    As for the multiple, multiple religions, though some would disagree, I would see a nugget of truth in all religions. I appreciate that Islam believes in one God, as do I. We should not ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’ in all of them. Hence, Paul could quote from a few Greek poets when communicating with Athenian scholars in Acts 17. But, as you will know, I do believe that there is one main path pointing to the truth. I cannot embrace relativism, as a good scientific agnostic/atheist would agree. It either is or isn’t.

    You finally stated – ‘Also, “archaeological and historical evidence” for Christianity really doesn’t mean much.’

    You are right in seeing that this does not ultimately persuade someone. I think things like historical, archaeological, psychological, sociological, linguistics, etc, studies are more a posteriori arguments than a priori. We develop arguments based upon and in response to our experience (I hope I distinguished properly between the two evidences). I know that seems to fly in the face of scientific research, but consider this: When one walks outside and feels the wind blow, from that experience one might gather that a storm is coming. But then, after sensing such through experience, the argument for a storm is developed even greater after studying barometric pressure, temperature changes, and noting other weather evidences through scientific measurements.

    With Christianity, at least for me, and probably most Christians, we didn’t base our decision to follow Christ because we had a bunch of empirical evidences and proofs presented to us. Most don’t respond because a theistic scientist was quoted. Though I know this language might be unacceptable to you, we were compelled by a message about the Son of God dying for our sins. But, after the fact (a posteriori), we have to consider the evidences out there – historically, scientifically, biologically, philosophically, teleologically, etc. And if these evidences disprove, then we must adjust (or at least should, though some can be stubborn). But none of these areas of science disprove. Some are used in reasonable support of Christianity. But not even biology and Darwinian evolution disprove religion and the divine. It has caused many a Christians to have to handle some observations and tougher questions. But none of the sciences disprove God. Sure, there are questions and possible discrepancies to handle. But none of these prove that it is absolutely unreasonable to believe in a divine being has intervened and created.

  • 87. ScottL  |  August 31, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Quester –

    You are within rights to want to know evidences. I am not sure if I should list books and websites or what.

    Scientifically we could like at people like Alister McGrath of Oxford, John Lennox of Oxford, Michael Behe of LeHigh University (though Dawkins is not a fan of his ‘irreducible complexity’ argument, which is fine)

    Philosophically we could consider G.K. Chesterson, C.S. Lewis – not just ‘Mere Christianity’ but also ‘The Abolition of Man’ (though you might not like these two for being Christians), and even something like the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy on teleological arguments – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments, and Antony Flew who later in life moved from an atheistic to a deist point of view.

    Historically we could consider the writings of Walter Kaiser and F.F. Bruce who addressed the historical accuracy questions in both the OT (Kaiser) and NT (Bruce)

    This is just a very small list. Some of these people are Christians, so I think that you might disagree with their works and evidential arguments. But I at least point to people who have taken the time to consider the gamut of arguments and have presented reasonable evidences. Thus, I would say we are not jumping into a blind faith. We are considering something reasonable.

    As Simon Greenleaf, founder of Harvard Law School, said something to this effect in one of his treatises: ‘Christianity does not “bring irresistible evidence” but offers sufficient evidences for “the serious inquirer”.

    qmonkey –

    I know you have made this comment in other posts – The whole argument is that only rational and learned people can make the full and proper decisions about evidences and arguments, thus, does God love these people more.

    I can only point to my reply to Obi about a posteriori arguments. We deduce a storm is coming because the wind is blowing hard. But only after the fact do we also study the scientific evidences to see if things contradict what our conscience, prudent common sense, and general observance tells us. Sure, I might have more access to books and scholarship than someone living in West Africa, but oddly enough, it seems that both groups of people are responding to the message about Christ. Some, like a McGrath of McDowell, needed the study to lead them to follow Christ. But all at the same time, I think they would argue that there was an inner-divine drawing in their own heart and life. Maybe they only realized that ‘drawing’ after the fact.

    And this is why, as I am sure you are aware of and possibly disagree with, we don’t ultimately base our decision on scientifically gained evidences. We cannot disregard them. But this cannot be all empirically proved. Hence, we do respond with faith, that is belief. Again, not blind faith, for I think we can say this is reasonable. But, in the end, even a scientist must have ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ that their evidences and interpretation of data is correct. But Christians do have a firm conviction that the Bible is God’s communication to humanity and that Christ is who He said He is in the Bible. I have faith in this, not because science proved it. But as the different arenas of science come out with possible evidences, I must consider them if they contradict.

    In all, God is not more impressed and does not love more those who have a high intelligence. He is communicating with all and longs that all respond to Him. You know all this stuff. :)

  • 88. Quester  |  August 31, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Scott L.

    You are within rights to want to know evidences. I am not sure if I should list books and websites or what.

    How about listing evidence? Books and websites are not evidence that God exists. They might contain evidence, but if so, surely you can provide at least one example. You say your faith is not blind. You say it is reasonable. Go ahead, then, and point out one piece of evidence for it. So far in this thread, you have typed just short of 3,000 words supposedly in support of Christianity being reasonable, without mentioning one piece of evidence or how you used your reason to interpret it. To use your analogy, I’ll accept “barometric pressure, temperature changes, and noting other weather evidences through scientific measurements” if you have them, but even if all you can do is show me a wind that is blowing, please do so. Listing the names of meterologists tells me nothing about whether or not a storm is coming.

    Some of these people are Christians, so I think that you might disagree with their works and evidential arguments.

    Balderdash. Evidence and arguments are not stronger or weaker because of who points to the evidence or who makes the argument. When I first read “God is not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, I expected to disagree with every point he would make. I had been a Christian for years and had argued with many atheists about their illogical and ignorant claims against God’s existence. I was not surprised when page after page of Hitchen’s book was filled with simple, factual errors. But when I thought about what the actual facts were, and replaced what he said with the truth, I found that his arguments were not weakened any. Again, to use your analogy, we can pretend that Hitchens claimed that a storm was coming because he heard thunder and I laughed because I heard no thunder, but then realized that the dark clouds I saw rolling in pointed to the same conclusion of an oncoming storm.

    I’d use an actual example instead of your analogy, but I’d borrowed the book and since returned it. I don’t actually own a copy.

    My point, though, is that even when I expect to disagree with someone, if they make a good argument, then they’ve made a good argument. If they have evidence, then they have evidence. If they make a poor argument, or have no evidence to point to, then I don’t care how may degrees they have hanging on their wall, how many books they’ve published or how likely I am to share their opinion usually.

    Are you familiar with the argument from authority fallacy?

    It has caused many a Christians to have to handle some observations and tougher questions. But none of the sciences disprove God.

    That’s the point at which I spent most of my life, holding onto the belief I was raised in and thinking I was being reasonable because nothing could prove Christianity wrong- to someone with a quick enough wit and a flexible enough theology. Last year, however, I realized that while nothing can disprove Christianity, nothing could prove it, either. In fact, the harder I looked, the more I realized that there is not one single piece of evidence that undeniably points to a supernatural, let alone enough that we can kid ourselves about knowing a potential god’s character, will or capabilities. At that point, I had to step down from ordained ministry. How could I point others to God if I could not know anything about God, including whether or not God exists?

    If you have evidence that God exists, or that Christianity knows something about God, I’m willing to hear it. Please share.

  • 89. Obi  |  August 31, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Scott L —

    When I say religions are “man-made”, I say that so that you will understand that they are not divinely inspired, as the vast majority claim to be, showing that many parts of their doctrine are indeed false (namely, the ones that say that they’re divinely inspired) and are no more significant than any other religion. Thus, saying that a religion is man-made is quite different than saying a scientific theory is man-made, because the former relies on the assumption that it isn’t man-made while the latter readily acknowledges that it is indeed man-made, and therefore subject to change and revision.

    Furthermore, saying that a religion is man-made points out how it is merely a collection of myths and doctrines fabricated by humans, with no bearing on the actual Universe. On the other hand, scientific theories are not “man-made” in that sense, but they are efforts by man to uncover how the Universe actually works, which would make them more “man-revealed”, because scientists do not create physical laws and phenomena — they simply attempt to describe what’s already there as best they can. I hope that’s clearer now.

    But none of the sciences disprove God.

    I beg to differ. The sciences do indeed disprove particular gods (I’m thinking specifically of the Christian God), but not the general concept of some transcendent being(s) called god(s). For an example of how science disproves the Christian concept of God, refer to the problem of evil combined with something like evolution. If man’s “free will” (which most likely doesn’t exist) caused suffering, how did it exist before humans even arose on this planet (about 2.4 billion years of life, death, and suffering), and furthermore, why did a loving God choose a process such as evolution that is inextricably tied with death and suffering to bring about all of his creations?

    That’s my favourite example, but other things such as prayer shown to be ineffective through statistical study, as well as through direct observation of the world (millions pray for an end to world hunger daily, but thousands still starve to death simultaneously), the aforementioned lack of free will (which is necessary in the Christian religion), the redundancy of the soul in the face of neuroscientific research, and other things that I’m certain I’ve missed serve to reinforce a belief beyond reasonable doubt that the Christian God simply doesn’t exist.

  • 90. qmonkey  |  August 31, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Scott,

    i would imagine that Quester has already read a lot of Lewis, Chesterton and the like and rejected their arguments. I know for me, mere Christianity and surprised by joy made a lot of sense when i was a Christian… not any more i hasten to add… (McGrath /lennox makes me cringe, to be honest.. nice you chose 2 of my compatriots in your list though!) i dont think quester is looking for good apologetics he’s looking for the evidence you promised him

    But maybe you could paraphrase something you particularly like.. one or two pieces of really good evidence. Not for teleology, but for a resurrected Jesus… if you would.

  • 91. qmonkey  |  August 31, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    >>>Some of these people are Christians

    weren’t they ALL Christians in your list?

    do you have any books by not Christians… saying that they think the bible is truly accurate and reliable?

  • 92. ScottL  |  August 31, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Quester, Obi, and qmonkey –

    ‘In fact, the harder I looked, the more I realized that there is not one single piece of evidence that undeniably points to a supernatural, let alone enough that we can kid ourselves about knowing a potential god’s character, will or capabilities.’

    In that statement, I guess you are referring to 100% empirical and scientifically based evidence. If so, I must concede, from my own understanding, that there is probably no such evidence. Thus, maybe the ‘barometric pressure’ analogy did not make case and point as I first hoped it would. Nonetheless, I still find Greenleaf’s (founder of the Harvard Law School) words as reasonable, or of fair judgment: ‘Christianity does not “bring irresistible evidence” but offers “sufficient evidences” for the serious inquirer.

    Thus, for a short example, we see that even Jewish historians such as Josephus referred to the actual historical existence of Jesus (see Antiquities, Book 18, ch.3, paragraph 3). I believe it was also the Jewish historian, Philo, who also referred to Christ in his works, I believe by the name Chrestus, but my memory somewhat fails me with Philo.

    Now, of course, this is not scientifically based, empirical evidence. And, as I stated just above, I am not sure such can be given. But, the only reason I briefly point out an historical document is that we can reasonably know that Jesus was an actual person who lived and walked in the Palestine area in the first century, just as we can reasonably know Julius Caesar was the first Roman emperor. Thus, the NT is an historical document that has recorded the teachings, miracles, etc, of this one named Jesus. And so, if there are external sources attesting to the fact that He lived, then maybe we then consider the main text that speaks of this one called Jesus. We didn’t start with Josephus and Philo, but maybe after being intrigued by the writings of the NT, we do a little historical research to see if this guy named Jesus was even a real person.

    When considering the reliability and historical nature of the NT, we recognize that scholars and historians have been able to collect some 5000 documents, in whole or part, that are copies of the NT (some very helpful documents like Codex Sinaiticus). If I am not mistaken, the NT copies attained give maybe more evidence than most any other ancient near eastern text known to man. This helps us consider whether the NT is completely fabricated or a reasonably accurate and helpful account of this one named Jesus. If so, then we begin to consider the things He taught and what the NT teaches about Christ. We then consider if the implications of His life and teachings are worth bearing in our own lives. Etc, etc, etc.

    This is just one brief way of working through reasonable evidence, which I believe is reasonable to consider that it will be sufficient for the seeker who is honest and willing to admit we will never have all the empirically scientific or biological evidences to ‘prove’ such, but again, it is reasonable and sufficient for the seeker.

    In the end, I know that even if I bring up pages and pages of reasonable historical, philosophical, etc, evidence in support of Christianity, only another question will be fired my way (or someone else’s who could give better justice to the arguments). And then another, and then another, and on and on. Unfortunately, for those who have an insatiable thirst for empirical evidence as the only sufficient source for ‘believing’ anything, I am not sure that thirst will ever be satisfied – by theology, philosophy, or science. It’s not that we don’t want to reasonably think through things, but we all know that you will not concede with any argument. I don’t know if it is reasonable to want all scientifically based evidence for everything. Again, people will want fair and sufficient evidence as we search, but not mathematically or scientifically empirical evidence.

    In the end, I cannot concede that science empirically proves that Christianity is false. For me, that evidence has not been unearthed, nor do I believe it will be. Just as I cannot prove to you that God exists by saying, ‘Look, there he is,’ you cannot prove He does not exist through scientific evidence and proof. We would have to be all-knowing to rule out God.

    In all, I do appreciate the discussions and challenges. You make me think through my faith and beliefs, and that is important. Thanks for all the interaction.

  • 93. DeeVee  |  September 1, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Yes…unbelief can argue with belief and does. Below is just one more story in my history of deconversion on the way to becoming a “heretic.”

    In fact, all human progress came from heretics and unbelievers…who did not, or refused to kowtow or bend to god’s will or the church. Apparently, its god’s will that you become sick, suffer alot and die. Doctors and scientists…to hell with that.

    I cannot tell you how many scientists were threatened with death by burning and torture because they created or invented a new medicine, vaccine or treatment…and went against “god’s will” and saved lives. The five physicians who invented ether to help women thru child birth in Scotland, were condemned by the church, because the bible said it was god’s swill that women suffer in agony in child birth for the sins of Eve. How nice.

    Yes, there are still really crazy religious people who do not believe in science, medicine, or saving people’s lives using modern medicine…Thank goodness for the heretics.

    Today, the remnant’s of these insane religious people include some Pentacostals, Church of Christers, Amish, Christian Science (hahahah what a misnomer) Church of Bible Science and so on…who do not believe in medicine. Every year, the court systems have to take these bozos to court in order to force them to provide medical care for their children. These bozos would allow their children to die without being treated…because its all god’s swill.

    I personally witnessed the Pentacostals kill a diabetic woman who lived on my father’s ranch in a rent house. Her church told her to stop using insulin because they were praying and sure god was going to heal her. Gangrene set in her leg, and she died inch by inch in agony. We could smell her rotting flesh for two weeks until she died. This was one of my first memories that put a chink in my religious “belief.”

    However, the massive hypocrisy is…that when 95% of the little christians get seriously ill…do they call upon their preacher to pray them to health or cure them? Hell no!…they run like blazes to their doctor.

    Down deep the christers know for a fact, prayer does not work, their preachers can’t even stop them from becoming ill, their religion does not cure anything..and the only chance they have at being cured is by scientists, researchers, and medical doctors…most of whom are atheists.

    For that reason alone…the entire value of religion is in doubt. I think the christians should come right out and start a church called The Church of Christian Hypocrisy…and just get it over with. It continues to amaze me how “proud” they are of their irrational beliefs.

    DeeVee

  • 94. Obi  |  September 1, 2008 at 1:08 am

    Scott L —

    Basically, because Josephus and another historian mention Jesus by name in passing, the entire New Testament text is made more reliable? I always find it laughable when Christians point to such accounts of Jesus’ life as well as accounts of Jesus’ death as evidence supporting Christianity. What they don’t realize is that none of those accounts detail any miracles or the resurrection, so you’re left at square one with the only things pointing to Jesus’ divinity are a collection of books and epistles by his closest followers. And of course, that provides for wonderfully partial historical accounts.

    Your supposed treasure trove of evidence is looking mighty scanty…

  • 95. Quester  |  September 1, 2008 at 2:28 am

    ScottL,

    In that statement, I guess you are referring to 100% empirical and scientifically based evidence

    By which, I assume you mean something I can either see, hear, touch, taste, perceive through specialized instruments or guess about by witnessing the impact it has on things we can somehow perceive? Yeah, that sounds good. Do you have another definition for “evidence” handy?

    Does it bother you even slightly that you have no evidence of this sort that points to God’s existence, character or will?

    Thus, maybe the ‘barometric pressure’ analogy did not make case and point as I first hoped it would.

    No, I’m afraid for that analogy to work, you need an actual “wind” to blow, not just someone who says it did (or does). We may not be able to see the wind, but we can reliably perceive the effects of the wind. That gives wind an incredible head start on God when it comes to evidence.

    But, the only reason I briefly point out an historical document is that we can reasonably know that Jesus was an actual person who lived and walked in the Palestine area in the first century, just as we can reasonably know Julius Caesar was the first Roman emperor.

    For the sake of argument, I’m going to pretend that most of this historical evidence for Jesus is just as trustworthy as the historical evidence for Ceaser. After all, I asked for evidence, not proof, and you have provided evidence that a man named Jesus existed in Palestine in the first century. Thank-you.

    When considering the reliability and historical nature of the NT, we recognize that scholars and historians have been able to collect some 5000 documents, in whole or part, that are copies of the NT (some very helpful documents like Codex Sinaiticus).

    All right, certainly. That uncited scholarship is evidence that what we read in the New Testement today is at least a reliable reflection of what the original authors intended to write 2000 years ago. Good, thank-you.

    We then consider if the implications of His life and teachings are worth bearing in our own lives.

    Wonderful! Simple trial and error, or even well-conducted thought experiments can lead us to see whether anything the New Testement authors attributed to Jesus is worth considering or obeying in our own lives. Thank-you, Scott.

    You have now provided evidence that:

    a) a man named Jesus lived in or around Palestine in the first century CE;

    b) stories written about this man Jesus are available to us that reliably reflect the original authors’ words, and;

    c) using our reason, we can pick and choose among the teachings attributed to Jesus in these stories and find advice that will help us meet goals we choose for ourselves in our own lives.

    Now, obviously, you have not proven any of these statements, but you have (more or less) provided at least one piece of evidence for each one– and that is all I asked for, was evidence, not proof. Thank-you.

    The only thing is, Scott, what I really wanted (see those last two lines in my comment #87?) was evidence that God exists, or that Christianity teaches something accurate about God. Not proof! With proof, you would not need faith. But you claim that your faith is reasonable, and that you have “sufficient evidence” for it. So, I’m asking, one more time, Scott L:

    Do you have any evidence, of any sort, that points to the existence of God or the ability of any Christian to know anything about God?

    I’m not asking you to “concede that science empirically proves that Christianity is false”. But do you have even the slightest and flimsiest of indications pointing to the merest possibility that God exists and you can know God’s will for you? Anything?

  • 96. qmonkey  |  September 1, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Scott L

    The NT is only correct and reliable if the interventionist god is both loving and all powerful. would you agree?

    Therefore is the fact that the ‘evidences’ for the NT events are at best convoluted and shaky.. point to this not being the work all powerful and all loving god? unless he deliberaty wants to fill heaven with gullible people who believe what they’re told (by their hopes and fears) and uber smart people like you who can work out that the evidence is enough.

    You’ll say that its not convoluted and shaky.. and i’ll say then why do you need faith? why is it not just accepted common knowledge that the resurrection happened? as it is that the A-bomb was dropped in 1945 or that Penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Flemming etc etc

    As for non-empirical truth. well, again… thats fine as long as its ok to be a Christian whilst not accepting the ‘fact’ of the resurrection. When a Christian starts to talk about non-empirical evidence of jesus … i start to think that they are personally troubled by the lack of real evidence. which is understandable.

  • 97. google  |  August 1, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    It’s going to be end of mine day, however before end I am reading this enormous paragraph to increase my knowledge.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

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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