Fear: A justifiable foundation for belief?

September 6, 2008 at 11:18 pm 125 comments

Fear is a powerful emotion. It can completely change the way our brain functions. When an animal is running for its life from a predator, it’s sympathetic nervous system takes over and changes the functioning of its body. The brain hopped up on fear shuts down regular functions such as digestion. It raises the heartbeat, dilates the pupils, and directs blood flow away from other organs and tissues and toward the lungs and limbs. Suffice it to say, it’s difficult to think clearly during fearful situations, let alone rationalize.

When we experience fear, we lean toward automatic reactions. That’s been programmed into our brains thanks to our instinct of self-preservation. Our brains tell us “Don’t think! Just be safe!” and that is why making decisions based on fear is not always a good idea. If your being chased by a mountain lion, then by all means, don’t think–just run away. But what if the thing causing your fear is less concrete, empirically speaking, than a charging cougar? In those instances we have to tell our sympathetic nerves to shut up for a second while we asses the situation. We have to examine the basis for fear before we give in to it.

Many of the arguments for putting faith in God are based on fear. Pascal’s Wager takes advantage of fear by claiming it is better to believe in God just in case, so that we can avoid the punishment of hell if, by some chance it exists. Likewise many Christians cite Hebrews 6:4-8 as a reason to continue their belief. The verses are considered a threat to deter wayward souls from apostatizing. It warns that a person who was once a Christian and has fallen away may never be redeemed ever again. It asserts that there is at least one unpardonable sin, one thing you can do that will get you into hell for sure: renouncing your faith in the Christian trinity.

If we want to think critically, we have to ask ourselves if fear is ever a justifiable foundation for belief. Is fear a good reason to believe in anything?

When I was a kid I had an older cousin who told me electric eels lived in the pipes of my pool, and that they would bite me if I swam past. For days I was scared to go into the pool because I really didn’t want to get bitten by an electric eel, but finally I decided that I could either keep being scared forever, or look in the pipes and see if there were really eels hiding there. So I looked, and guess what, no eels! I learned that the basis of my fear was false.

As rational beings, we must examine critically the basis of any claim before we give into its fear mongering. As a Christian, when I began having doubts about the existence of God I was scared by Hebrews 6:4-8. I was scared of the threat of hell, scared of letting down God, scared of disrespecting him, scared that I was spitting into the face of Jesus who made the ultimate sacrifice for me, scared that my name would be written out of the book of life, and scared that I was wrong. But I decided, rater than give into that fear, I had to examine the basis. I looked for empirical, non-emotional proof for the existence of a benevolent, all-powerful creator God. I found nothing. No proof of something called a “soul,” no proof of bottom-up design, no proof of anything supernatural. My fear was without basis, and no longer became a source of fear at all.

I found no proof of eels in my pool, but I could have continued to be afraid. I could have insisted that the eels were invisible, that my eyes weren’t well-equip to see them, that they were really there but I had failed to notice. The next time I went swimming I still avoided the pipes. I still had the emotional fear that the eels were there, even if I could find no proof of them. But that emotion didn’t make the eels real, and I decided that I had to let go of the fear because I really wanted to enjoy swimming that summer. Likewise, I decided I had to let go of God, despite my inner fears, because there was no proof of him either.

In my opinion, fear is the most powerful emotion that can obscure our powers of reason. We have to constantly rise above our evolutionarily programed instincts and rationalize in the face of fear.

- orDover

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125 Comments Add your own

  • 1. the chaplain  |  September 6, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Nice post. Fear is a powerful, and – in the case of religion, misleading – motivator. I remember how terrified I was when I realized that I didn’t believe in God anymore. Fortunately, for me, the terror was short-lived. It was still real, though.

  • 2. orDover  |  September 7, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Thanks, chaplain.

    I’ve been thinking (and thus writing) about fear a lot lately. Yesterday I posted another fear-themed post, this one concerning the Threat of Hell.

  • 3. VeridicusX  |  September 7, 2008 at 9:32 am

    It has been some time since I stopped believing in god, but there was still a lurking, irrational fear of committing “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”.

    I realized some while ago that god is impossible. The Bible god simply does not exist because the Bible and its god contradict reason, morality, the evidence, testable facts and itself, but the fear persisted.

    I solved that problem by affirming, “I deny God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I deny that God exists. Even if God did exist then by the testimony of the Bible and the evidence he would be evil. The Holy Spirit would not be “Holy” in the way I believed before, the Holy Spirit would in fact be an Unclean or Evil Spirit”.
    The Holy Spirit is allegedly the one who inspired rape, genocide, slavery, sex slavery, the sacrifice of innocents, etc. and the concept of hell which has caused so much fear in the world.

    Understanding the non-existence of god and the immorality and contradictions of the Bible has terminated that fear for me.

  • 4. Marie  |  September 7, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    great post! I like that pipes example – imagine if your ancestors for generations and generations had been telling stories of killer eels and pool pipes, how you would truly think your fear was built on something real, when it was a farce from the beginning!

    [quote: Is fear a good reason to believe in anything?]

    I don’t think fear can ever be a reason to believe anything, but moreso an excuse. We use fear to believe things which will keep us “safe.” Whether or not to use fear as an excuse is most revealing about how we are choosing to live our lives. Do we see our existence as an opportunity to stay alive the longest? Or do we see life as an opportunity to live, experience, grow, explore and be alive, despite the risks?

    Fear might seem to keep souls “safe” when it is the glue between one and one’s religion, but it is only an illusion because it is built on a false foundation. Those of us who have de-converted have conquered the fear and no longer use it as an excuse, and in that we are able to live lives where we are FREE to explore, question, experience, grow, etc.

    We can be afraid of getting murdered and never leave the house – only to have cancer take over and lead to an early death. But what is the value of a life if it is just lived in ignorant seclusion? I don’t think much.

  • 5. Prodigal Daughter  |  September 7, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    This is a great post, I love your writing. I wish I could say I was completely free of the fear, but I’m not. It still lurks inside me “what if I’m wrong, what if they (the Christians) are right?” Its the fear of hell that scares me because I can barely stand life here sometimes, to think that there is eternal suffering waiting for me “on the other side” is unbearable to think about.

    I “accepted Christ” based on fear of hell and was a Christian for 17 years. Hopefully I will be able to fully let go of fear soon.

  • 6. karen  |  September 8, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I “accepted Christ” based on fear of hell and was a Christian for 17 years. Hopefully I will be able to fully let go of fear soon.

    I would imagine that you will. Most of us experience that kind of fear when first deconverting, but it fades over time just like most emotions.

    Worrying about death, hell and punishment frightened me quite a bit after I realized I no longer believed. Within six months or a year that fear subsided and now I don’t worry about it at all. In fact, it seems very silly that I was ever frightened.

  • 7. Marie  |  September 8, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Prodigal Daughter, you will be free of the fear soon! I de-converted about two years ago, and I really am free of the fear!

  • 8. Jim  |  September 8, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Well, let me be transparent for a moment. I am afraid, and that is why I am still trying to believe. It would be one thing if it were just me, but I’m even more afraid for my children.

  • 9. becky  |  September 8, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    it is interesting that fear is used as a foundation in many churches to believe when the opposite is true. the foundation is faith.

    To me, this demonstrates how the church and in a sense apologetics has gotten many things confused.

    becky

  • 10. orDover  |  September 8, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    the foundation is faith.

    What does that even mean? How do you come to faith then, if not through fear, ultimately?

  • 11. ubi dubium  |  September 8, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Jim

    Well, let me be transparent for a moment. I am afraid, and that is why I am still trying to believe. It would be one thing if it were just me, but I’m even more afraid for my children.

    Something that I found helpful: Is it more likely that hell was created by a loving god to send his beloved children to if they don’t believe the one correct interpretation of the one correct version of the one correct ancient book, or is it more likely that hell is an idea created by humans for the purpose of controlling each other through fear?

  • 12. Cooper  |  September 8, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    God does not want us to come to Him through fear—but he will use it if that’s what it takes to save someone. Heb. 6:4-6 is exactly that. I have mentioned before that those verses are like an electric fence–or like barbed wire. Normally, in the Christian walk, one does not even get close to those verses—one is full of assurance and joy. BUT, if one strays so far that they lose their assurance, then the door is open to fear—-and those verses are there to drive us back.

    Fear is part of life for a reason. One does not run around during a chance of lightning strikes. When one ventures close to the edge of a cliff fear WARNS us that something very real could happen. We beware because of this. Sure, there are false fears—but there are also very real fears—-they are there, just like the feeling of pain is to keep us from venturing further.

    The Bible says one can “sear their conscience” by repeatedly ignoring the warnings. Some have stated above they no longer fear such verses as Hebrews 6:4-6, even though they have turned their back on the faith. Growing to a point of not experiencing as much fear at the edge of a cliff can be learned—-but does the danger of the fall go away? Because you no longer fear does not take away the reality of the cliff, or the fall. Not being afraid of Hebrews 6 does not take away the reality of it’s teaching.

    I don’t seek to follow God through fear. I follow Jesus because he is a loving Savior. But I’ll tell you—-I’m not going to be foolish enough to ignore his warnings:

    “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven” (Heb. 12:25)

    One needs to go back and read Hebrews. It warns of having an “evil heart of unbelief in departing from the Living God”–it warns that one can get so far away that they can not/or will not listen any more (meaning of Hebrews 6:4-6). In fact, these people can calmly say they don’t fear any more. But the fact remains that what they say they do not fear has not gone away, and is just as real as when they were Christians walking and following the Lord. That truly is a fearful thing. And that fear is there as a last resort for us—if we ignore it all we are doing is closing the only door we have to salvation on ourselves.

  • 13. ubi dubium  |  September 8, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Cooper just gave a good example of what I was talking about. He’s trying to use fear to manipulate people into believing his particular mythology. Religions have been doing this ever since religions were invented. The Aztec’s lived in fear that the sun would not come up if they did not perform a daily human sacrifice. A religion that preaches fear of disbelief strikes me as less likely to be true than one that does not. If there were a religion that were actually true, it should be so obviously superior that it would have not need to rely on fear.

  • 14. Cooper  |  September 8, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    A religion that preaches fear of disbelief strikes me as less likely to be true than one that does not. If there were a religion that were actually true

    Ubi—

    Because something “strikes you” as less likely to be true it doesn’t make it untrue. As I mentioned in my other post—someone may put out the warning “DO NOT GET TOO CLOSE TO EDGE OF CLIFF AS YOU COULD FALL”. Now, one person might stay 80 feet away from the edge—being so filled with fear they are afraid to venture any closer. Another might stay 10 feet away. And perhaps a few brave souls might clammer up to the very edge. But no matter where those people are the cliff is still DANGEROUS.

    God is giving us a warning in Scripture. SOME overreact and live their whole Christian life in fear—this isn’t what God wants. Some understand that fear is very real, but that the Christian life is lived in love of Christ—if there is fear it is there for a GOOD REASON—not to dwell on, but to take heed of lest we fall. If we choose not to heed the warnings, our choice does not negate the very real danger of the warning–just like not fearing the edge of a cliff does not take away the danger of venturing too far and really falling.

  • 15. ubi dubium  |  September 8, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Cooper-
    Allah is giving you a warning in the Qur’an – If you do not believe, then a fiery doom awaits you! It’s not in just one verse, it’s repeated over and over again in every sura I have read so far. Follow the teachings of Muhammad or Allah will condemn you to torture! Every devout Muslim will tell you the danger is very real. The warning is clear, yet I am guessing you do not obey it. Why don’t you? If you are clear on the reasons you don’t bow to Mecca five times a day, perhaps you can understand my perspective on your threats of hell.

    Your cliff metaphor is not a strong one. We all have experience with falling off of smaller things, and we can observe the damage to objects dropped off the cliff. We have actual evidence that the danger is real. Your evidence for hell is an ancient book written by Bronze-age goatherders and Roman-era mystics. You’ll need some better evidence to persuade this skeptic that hell is not fictional.

    (And I use the terminology of “strikes me as untrue” because I don’t have the arrogance to assume I am speaking for anybody but myself, regarding whether your statements about the existence of god are believable.)

  • 16. Jim  |  September 8, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Cooper,

    The only problem with your cliff analogy is that not only is there really a cliff there, but people can see it (other things might have already fallen in plain site). Most of the people on this site come from a point where they simply find the Christian God does not exist and they see no evidence for Him. At this point the only that would keep them from accepting this (to them) obvious fact is that they could burn in hell. Lets extend your analogy a bit, and say the cliff is invisible. Not only that, but the sign sits right in the middle of I80, with the cliff reportedly in the far lanes where traffic is quite visibly driving on it.

    I would think if the issue is the lack of any presence of any God as described, and therefor people begin to question whether He is there at all, a good God would make that presence clear (for believer and non-believer alike, which He seems to do quite frequently in the written account of the Old Testament). Instead, all that is given are words written by men (and perhaps inspired by God) that you had better believe this, regardless if there is zero evidence, or you are going to burn forever.

  • 17. becky  |  September 8, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    ordover

    fear isn’t the only reason a person comes to faith. although I do agree many churches preach this but ultimately that will not sustain a person’s faith over time. True faith is tested to see what its foundation is based upon and believe you me if its foundation/basis is only fear, it will crumble.

    becky

  • 18. silentj  |  September 8, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Becky,

    Perhaps “true” faith may crumble, but I know plenty of people who have told me the main reason they stay in their faith is Pascal’s wager, what might happen in the after life. I also wonder if death bed conversions would speak to the contrary of what you say about fear’s role in faith.

    I don’t know what kinds of tests you have in mind, but the people I’ve talked to have plenty of reasons to walk away from faith, but stay in it because of fear.

  • 19. BigHouse  |  September 8, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    If not fear, becky, what others things can faith be based on?

  • 20. Cooper  |  September 8, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Becky—

    I agree—a faith whose foundation is fear will crumble. But God does use fear to save some people. God will use any resource to turn people around.

    22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.(Jude)

    “snatch others from the fire”—that speaks of warning others of their fate if they do not listen. Some people need that—-many don’t—many come to Christ fully out of his endearing love—but their are others who literally have to be warned, and through fear they turn. The fear causes them to throw themselves upon the mercy of God. God will definitely use any means to save people—He loves them so very much–

    “He is not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance” (2 Peter)

    Unfortunately, there are some who just will not heed—-they will not come through the call of love, and they refuse to come even through the last resource—fear.

  • 21. Cooper  |  September 8, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    If not fear, becky, what others things can faith be based on?

    BigHouse—

    I mean this sincerely—my faith is based on the great love that Jesus Christ showed to me by dying on the cross. My heart is filled with joy when I think of one day being close to him. The only time I have experienced fear is when I have strayed away—and that is because my assurance has assuaged as a result, and a “feeling” of uncertainty can take the place of a positive faith in the Word of God.

    But I believe that that is what the “warnings” in the Bible are for—-to take one who has strayed and lost their assurance, and turn them back (if the call of love is ignored)—it is a form of what the Bible calls “chastening”–(see Hebrews 12). But the true Christian walk of faith is not based on fear at all—-we know that “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” and that “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, shall he not also with Him freely give us ALL things?” The normal Christian walk is one of joy and thankfulness to the Lord motivated by a deep appreciation and love.

  • 22. silentj  |  September 8, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    I don’t know that the “normal Christian walk” is one of joy and thankfulness. I think that is the ideal version of Christian faith. However, I think there are still a LOT of people motivated by fear, the great unknowable abyss that might exist after earthly death. I think it’s disingenuous to suggest that a “normal” Christian, whatever that is, believes out of love.

    In fact, I think the number one reason people believe in their faith is that they are brought up to believe in that faith, not a joyful walk or a fear of Hell. They simply believe. However, from what many have told me, fear of Hell keeps a great many of them in check.

  • 23. Rover  |  September 8, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Cooper,

    According to the bible “fear” is a great motivator for the believer. It is a legitimate motivator and it does not merely mean “respect” It means to “be afraid” in most cases.

    Psalm 34:11 Come children! Listen to me!
    I will teach you what it means to fear the Lord. 21
    34:12 Do you want to really live? 22
    Would you love to live a long, happy life? 23
    34:13 Then make sure you don’t speak evil words 24
    or use deceptive speech! 25
    34:14 Turn away from evil and do what is right! 26
    Strive for peace and promote it! 27
    34:15 The Lord pays attention to the godly
    and hears their cry for help. 28
    34:16 But the Lord opposes evildoers
    and wipes out all memory of them from the earth. 29
    34:17 The godly 30 cry out and the Lord hears;
    he saves them from all their troubles. 31
    34:18 The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
    he delivers 32 those who are discouraged. 33
    34:19 The godly 34 face many dangers, 35
    but the Lord saves 36 them 37 from each one of them.
    34:20 He protects 38 all his bones; 39
    not one of them is broken. 40
    34:21 Evil people self-destruct; 41
    those who hate the godly are punished. 42
    34:22 The Lord rescues his servants; 43
    all who take shelter in him escape punishment. 44

    “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my
    presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own
    salvation with fear and trembling;” (Ph 2:12)

  • 24. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Rover—-

    Now go back through Psalms and check out all the verses that reference God’s great lovingkindness and mercy to the believer. Start with Psalm 103. You will see that the amount of verses speaking of God’s great love far outweigh verses dealing with fear or wrath. Since you also reference Phillipians from the NT–also read Ephesians 2—especially verse 7.

  • 25. BigHouse  |  September 9, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    24. Cooper | September 9, 2008 at 2:54 pm
    Rover—-

    Now go back through Psalms and check out all the verses that reference God’s great lovingkindness and mercy to the believer. Start with Psalm 103. You will see that the amount of verses speaking of God’s great love far outweigh verses dealing with fear or wrath. Since you also reference Phillipians from the NT–also read Ephesians 2—especially verse 7.

    How is this a defense that we aren’t supposed to be influenced in our faith by fear?

  • 26. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    How is this a defense that we aren’t supposed to be influenced in our faith by fear?

    We can be “influenced” by fear if we focus on passages filled with fear–this is true of life itself—if we focus on things we fear we will never do anything. The Warning passages are there for a reason—but not for us to dwell on. There are FAR MORE passages which speak of comfort and forgiveness, acceptance and great love than of fear.

    For instance—-if I am following Christ and truly love him do I concentrate on Heb. 6:4-6 which speaks of apostasy, or do I concentrate on Romans 8:28 which says “For all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose” ?

    Yes—there are passages of warning which can bring fear—especially if one is far from God, or have strayed far from the Lord. But there are an overabundance of encouraging and wonderful passages of scripture–“exceeding great and precious promises” says Peter, that the Christian should be concentrating on, and staking their faith upon—not fear.

  • 27. BigHouse  |  September 9, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    If the “love” passages are enough to spark the faith, why does there need to be a hell and fear-inducing passages at all? Really, the penalty for not having faith in a highly implausible scenario is enternal torment? This is a benevolent God?

    It. Doesn’t. Make. Sense.

  • 28. silentj  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    “It. Doesn’t. Make. Sense.”

    That’s really what it boils down to for me, in virtually all aspects.

  • 29. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    If the “love” passages are enough to spark the faith, why does there need to be a hell and fear-inducing passages at all? Really, the penalty for not having faith in a highly implausible scenario is enternal torment? This is a benevolent God?

    It. Doesn’t. Make. Sense.

    Big House—-

    It doesn’t make much sense to me either. However, I realize there is much I do notreally understand. Why did Jesus have to suffer so horribly, and carry the sins of the whole world to redeem them from death, and the Lake of Fire? Why didn’t God just “undo” Adam’s fall, or not create him at all, or start over again? This is a great mystery–one only God knows. The reality though, according to the Bible, is that there is a Lake of Fire, created for the devil and his angels orignally, not man. It may not make sense—but one thing is sure—-God created a way through his Son’s death on the cross for ALL OF US to avoid that end, if we will simply receive it. His death for us is an exceeding act of love–the just for the unjust.

    We can go on and on about how it doesn’t make sense, and why didn’t God do this, or why didn’the do that? But the fact is, there is a way of salvation. If you are in a burning house are you going to stop and ask questions, or are you going to take the fireman’s hand and get pulled to safety? Hell is an awful thought for sure—but NO ONE has to go there if they accept Christ. Are we going to spend our life griping about how awful and unfair hell is, or are we going to escape it by receiving Christ? After one receives Christ there is no more to fear—so why reject him?

  • 30. orDover  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    However, I realize there is much I do not really understand.

    I love how this is said, as always, with an air of preachy superiority. Christians often say they don’t uderstand smack in the middle of explaining something that they believe they DO understand, and that they believe non-Christians don’t. I don’t suppose though, that pointing out this varnish of humility placed over an attitude of ultimate self-confidence will do any good. I just can’t help it though. It sets my teeth on edge!

    But the fact is, there is a way of salvation.

    There may be a lot you don’t understand, but you certainly have this after-life buisness all worked out.

  • 31. silentj  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    “But the fact is, there is a way of salvation. If you are in a burning house are you going to stop and ask questions, or are you going to take the fireman’s hand and get pulled to safety?”

    Of course, you might open your eyes and simply realize the house isn’t on fire, that there is no Hell, and that you don’t need salvation.

    Decons don’t gripe about how bad hell is. They don’t believe in Hell.

    “After one receives Christ there is no more to fear—so why reject him?”

    I think the mafia used a similar tactic.

  • 32. john t.  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Silentj

    Hey now whats wrong with the “good fellas” ;)

  • 33. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    There are many things in life we do not understand—but we continue without questioning it. I do not fully understand how this computer works, or how the keys are sending this information to a blog. I do not understand how a microwave works, or fully how a car even works for that matter. I do not fully understand how electricity is produced, or how they make Swiss cheese.

    Isn’t it amazing though that when it comes to God and the Bible I MUST understand it ALL, and it must all make absolute sense or I will not believe? I do not understand hell, therefore it must not exist, and therefore I reject salvation.

  • 34. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Of course, you might open your eyes and simply realize the house isn’t on fire,

    slitentj—

    My neighbor said the same thing the other day. He’s in the hospital with 3rd degree burns. But thanks for your thoughts.

  • 35. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I love how this is said, as always, with an air of preachy superiority. Christians often say they don’t uderstand smack in the middle of explaining something that they believe they DO understand

    orDover—

    I’m not saying it with preachy superiority—-I am stating a fact. I do not understand hell—but I believe it is real and does in fact exist. Do I know what hell is, or understand it, or can I even grasp it’s magnitude? No–I can’t. But because I don’t understand something does it make it unreal? Because it is beyond my self-imposed “all-knowing” intelligence, does it make it not exist? Of course not.

  • 36. BigHouse  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    In your #33, Cooper, the BIG difference between all your examples and then “salvation” is that I can DIRECTLY EXPERIENCE THE RESULTS. I don’t know how Swiss cheese is made either but I can taste it and that’s what drives me to have it again. I wouldn’t contend that eating Swiss cheese cures cancer, because there’s no basis to the claim. Same with salvation.

  • 37. silentj  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Are you speaking metaphorically or literally?

    If you’re speaking literally, I’m not sure why you decided to use the burning house metaphor to parallel God’s love if that situation just happened to your neighbor.

    I’m sorry your neighborhood got burned. I’m also sorry you would us his/her story as an example for why people should have faith.

    As for your comments about “not understanding,” you could find out how all of those things work pretty easily. In fact, you could Google all of those topics tonight and understand enough for the ideas to make sense.

    However, that’s not the major point. The major point is that you’re dedicating your life to a belief that doesn’t make sense to you. Though, Christianity, or religion, certainly isn’t the only thing that people dedicate their lives to that they don’t understand.

  • 38. silentj  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    “But because I don’t understand something does it make it unreal? Because it is beyond my self-imposed “all-knowing” intelligence, does it make it not exist? Of course not.”

    Nobody is claiming “all-knowing” intelligence. We’re just looking for a shred of evidence that goes beyond the “we are a creation, so there must be a creator” argument.

  • 39. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    BigHouse—

    My point is that many of things we use and experience daily we have no idea about in reality. We just use them—they work, and we use them. We don’t ask how they are made first—-or ask to know all the answers about a product before we consume it. But when it comes to God and the Bible most here want ALL the answers. They don’t understand hell—the thought is repugnant, so therefore it must not exist. They don’t understand the devil, or salvation, or the cross, etc. etc.—well, a lot of Christians do not FULLY understand most of it either. But it works—the Lord has entered our hearts and changed us—–I don’t know how—-it seems impossible that God could live in me—infinite inside the finite—how could that be? I really don’t know.

    Geez—I sure feel like a baked potato. In fact, I’m quite hungry–but I’d better know how that microwave works before I use it–I want to know all facets of how it works or I’m not eating a potato. Looks like I’m going to go hungry tonight.

  • 40. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    silentj—

    I was using what is called a “joke”. My neighbor did not burn—you said “what if the house isn’t on fire?” Well, what if you SAY the house isn’t on fire when it is? That was my point.

  • 41. BigHouse  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Cooper, your analogies are poor, continuing to trot them out doesn’t make them more powerful.

    Salvation is conveinetly a promise that cannot be ratified by ANYONE, ANYHOW, ANY WAY. Everything else is ratifiable, testable, and knowable to those who seek it,

  • 42. silentj  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Cooper,

    My apologies for missing our on your neighbor having burns as a “joke.” Since it wasn’t funny and didn’t make a very good rhetorical point, I figured you were serious.

    At any rate, you keep referring to knowing “fully” yet keep missing the point.

    Other than the Bible and believers, there is NO evidence that a god exists or that Jesus was a man-god. You can’t sneeze without someone putting a video of it on You Tube, and we still can’t come up with any evidence that God EXISTS, let alone why this god set up the human condition the way he did.

    And as many people keep saying over and over again, if the stakes are so high, why not intercede directly so that we know we are the creation of a higher being? 2,000 years ago, such occurrences, direct signs, were fairly common. Why none now?

  • 43. orDover  |  September 9, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Cooper,

    There are many things in life we do not understand—but we continue without questioning it. I do not fully understand how this computer works, or how the keys are sending this information to a blog. I do not understand how a microwave works, or fully how a car even works for that matter. I do not fully understand how electricity is produced, or how they make Swiss cheese.

    My point is that many of things we use and experience daily we have no idea about in reality. We just use them—they work, and we use them. We don’t ask how they are made first—-or ask to know all the answers about a product before we consume it. But when it comes to God and the Bible most here want ALL the answers.

    The difference between questions of religion and everything that you listed is that you CAN learn how those things work. They don’t always have to be a mystery, or a matter of blind acceptance. Want to learn how your computer works? Take a few classes at a local university. Want to understand how a microwave works? Well, that’s blatantly simple and I learned that in junior high earth science. But if you want to know the details–take a class! Or read a book! Want to learn how to make Swiss cheese? Look it up on the internet, or go visit a cheese factory. And even if you never visit the Tillamook cheese factory or take a physics course or get a degree in electrical engineering, you can still have the confidence that: a) if you ever have the inclination, those things can be done, and b) if you never feel so inclined, you can still have the confidence that some other people out there have a complete understanding of those things.

    Even if you wanted to desperately, you can never fully understand “God.” No one can. You don’t HAVE to have faith that your computer will allow you to post messages on a blog. You can eliminate “faith” by discovering “fact.” You can never break “God” down into understandable facts, therefore you are always required to have some degree of blind faith.

    You say that we “just use” man things in daily life without understanding them, but while we might not understand them, we can still see and experience their results. I don’t know exactly how my computer works, but I witness it working, and I can tell if it is broken or not working right. It’s not so with God. We don’t know how God is supposed to interact with us, so we can never say if we are experience it or not. We also don’t know the final outcome. We don’t know that belief in God works because we have yet to experience the afterlife.

    Yes. We want ALL the answers. And I don’t think that is asking too much. I want ALL of the answers to everything, not just religion. I’m not going to give religion carte blanche just because it is supposed to be special. I’m going to ask the same questions of religion that I ask of science. I’m going to ask for PROOF and real, solid, verifiable answers.

  • 44. Cooper  |  September 9, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    How long did electricity exist before Benjamin Franklin put a kite in the air with a key on it? Electricity existed for billions of years. Yet, only within the last few hundred years was it proven to exist, and to be harnessed for good use. You don’t need “proof” that electricity exists any more, but you would have a thousand years ago. But the fact that no one “believed” in it didn’t make it any less real.

  • 45. silentj  |  September 9, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    The proof 1,000 years ago was lightening. People have always believed in lightening. Some just thought it was the result of Thor’s hammer or God’s wrath, where as now we have a fair amount of knowledge of particles.

  • 46. ubi dubium  |  September 9, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Cooper

    How long did electricity exist before Benjamin Franklin put a kite in the air with a key on it? Electricity existed for billions of years. Yet, only within the last few hundred years was it proven to exist, and to be harnessed for good use. You don’t need “proof” that electricity exists any more, but you would have a thousand years ago. But the fact that no one “believed” in it didn’t make it any less real.

    Oh, people believed in it, they just didn’t understand it. They could see lightning, and invented a god to account for it. And as soon as carpets were invented, people would have learned how to shock each other by scuffing their feet across it. It just took until the 1700’s to figure out that lightning and tiny shocks were actually two versions of the same thing. The fact that for thousands of years people “believed” that lightning came from a god didn’t make it true. Find a better metaphor.

  • 47. orDover  |  September 9, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Just to add on to what silentj said, which I agree with:
    First of all, electricity, whether or not it is understood, can be experienced. God can’t, for certain. Second, we’ve already had this conversation but it was about the state of matter before the Big Bang. What I said then still applies. If you don’t understand something, then try to understand it anyway, you’ll probably be wrong. Electricity (via lightening) wasn’t understood, but it was experienced, and people sought to explain it. They were wrong, but that didn’t stop them. They didn’t say “Thor did it,” and stop. They kept searching and learning. Franklin had to know electricity was there before he could study it. If you can’t even know that God is there, how can it be studied?

    I’m not saying that believing in something or not believing in something makes it more or less real. I’m saying things either are, or they are not, and we can figure them out. Hence the search for answers.

  • 48. Cooper  |  September 10, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    If you don’t understand something, then try to understand it anyway, you’ll probably be wrong. Electricity (via lightening) wasn’t understood, but it was experienced, and people sought to explain it. They were wrong, but that didn’t stop them. They didn’t say “Thor did it,” and stop. They kept searching and learning. Franklin had to know electricity was there before he could study it. If you can’t even know that God is there, how can it be studied?

    OrDover—

    My point, though not a very good metaphor is that there are many things which at first are completey misunderstood, or considered “fantasies” then later proved to be entirely real.

    Unitl the correct instruments were invented no one had any idea there were microwaves, or X-rays, or radio waves—yet they WERE THERE even though no one could see them. The spectrum has colors outside our realm of vision—because we cannot see them doesn’t mean they are there. The same applies to sound-waves, etc.

    What I find ludicrous is someone saying God doesn’t exist because he cannot be proved. There were plenty of things that had not been proved, but were later found to exist in our own physical world. The Bible says that God shows himself directly through creation. Several astronauts once put on the moon, and in the silence of space, had profound experiences and professed later a much stronger belief in God. Not all of course, but many did. Though the “effect” of God’s presence cannot be “proved” it is very much there. Perhaps one day He will be proved—just as gamma waves, radio waves, and X-rays were on a smaller scale.

  • 49. Cooper  |  September 10, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    because we cannot see them doesn’t mean they are there

    I meant to say because we cannot see them doesn’t mean they AREN’T there.

  • 50. BigHouse  |  September 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    But if they’re there but we can’t perceive them (like the colors of the spectrum) who cares? We don’t devote time to “seeing” that which cannot be seen.

    You’re putting the cart before the horse. If God is unproven, why care about him/ If he does exist AND reveals himself plausibly THEN we should address him.

    You are arguing that we should believe God exists, even though we don’t, because he MIGHT be there. Trust me, most here WOULD believe and worship and whatnot IF he revealed himself.

    You’ve chosen the Bible as sufficient revelation, perhap among other things. We do not find it suffiicient. So the argument is about the reliability of the evidence and our respcetive thresholds for belief, not that the de-cons stubbornly refuse to believe something that may turn our true at a later time…

  • 51. orDover  |  September 10, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Unitl the correct instruments were invented no one had any idea there were microwaves, or X-rays, or radio waves—yet they WERE THERE even though no one could see them.

    But if I was living in 1408, I wouldn’t believe in X-rays. Or microwaves. Or any other undetectable frequencies of light. I only “believe” in these things after they have been proven.

    What I find ludicrous is someone saying God doesn’t exist because he cannot be proved. There were plenty of things that had not been proved, but were later found to exist in our own physical world.

    Do you really find that ludicrous? Just think about it for a second. What if I told you that there was an undetectable china teapot orbiting the sun between Earth an Mars. The existence of the teapot cannot be proven, but I want you to believe in it anyway, because it could be there. Surely you’d say it’s ludicrous to believe in something without proof, and that can never be proven. What if I told you that flowing through your body was a magnetic fluid flowing through your body, and that I could use that fluid to hypnotize you and by having you hold on to a chord attached to a tub filled with water and iron shavings I could heal whatever ails you. But don’t bother looking for the magnetic fluid in autopsies, because it is magical and cannot be detected. Would you believe in the magnetic fluid?

    If you put aside your emotional reaction and use your brains rational abilities I’m sure you’ll realize that because something can’t be proven is, in fact, a very good reason NOT to believe in it.

    But that’s beside the point, because I, and atheists in general, are not saying that God can’t be proven therefore God doesn’t exist. We’re saying that God hasn’t been proven THUS FAR, and so we withhold belief until further evidence is produced.

    Perhaps one day He will be proved—just as gamma waves, radio waves, and X-rays were on a smaller scale.

    And that’s the day that I’ll believe. But not until then.

    The difference between God and all of the others things that you keep brining up is that those things have actually been discovered and are now understood empirically. That is why we “believe” in them. Or rather, why we accept them as fact. Until God is understood empirically, I will not believe.

    I would have said, had I lived in 1825, that it was silly to believe that there are several frequencies of light that cannot be seen with the human eye, just as I say it is silly to believe in God. But then if I was still alive in the 1890s, after X-rays were discovered, I would have coincided the point and said, “Okay, now there is a justifiable reason to believe in frequencies of light that cannot be seen with the human eye.”

    Bertrand Russell wrote:
    “If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.” (emphasis mine)

    The burden of proof lays with the religious. You must prove God before I believe.

  • 52. Cooper  |  September 10, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    BigHouse—

    Let me go in a bit of a different direction here. Of course, this can’t “prove” anything—but consider it if you will. If you are a “de-con” that means you were once a Christian.

    Let me pose this question—when you “were” a Christian what was one of your greatest desires? A huge majoity of Christians would say to please the Lord. They would want to be as honest, sincere, and holy as they could be. At least if they were sincere at heart they would. Think back to when you became a Christian and remember the zeal, the joy, the sincerity of heart.

    Now—backtrack to the Apostles and the first disciples. What do you think their motivation was? I would think they were just as sincere and zealous as Christians are today—-if not far more zealous since they actually saw Jesus.

    I have to ask then, do you think 50 Christians who saw Jesus ascend into heaven all lied? Did the 12 apostles who saw Jesus “appear” to them, resurrected with wounds,” lie” so they could start a religion? Did Peter lie when he wrote that he heard God’s voice say “this is my beloved Son, hear him”?

    Did all of the writers of New Testament books lie when they spoke of miracles they saw Jesus do? WE only have the Bible and our own experience of God—would I “lie” to gain converts to Christianity? How much more they who actually SAW the things we proclaim—would they lie?

    Before someone goes into a rant about Buddhists or Muslims or Hindus and if they are lying, etc, etc,—-I am asking about Christianity and YOUR OWN experience, and your own sincerity and if you think you would lie about something that meant so much to your own heart. If you can sincerely say that you wouldn’t lie, what makes anyone think that the original apostles or disciples would “make up” things to propogate a religion? If 50 Christians saw Jesus ascend into heaven, or if Peter said he heard the voice of God, or Paul said he heard and saw Jesus from heaven—–I believe. I do not need my own physical proof—-I have experienced God’s presence, and I have his Word of which He says “These words are faithful and true”.

  • 53. BigHouse  |  September 10, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Cooper, in a nusthell, I believed because I was taught to at a very young age, and as a “pleaser” I wanted to be the best Christian I could..for my father, for my pastor, in front of my fellow Christians.

    Now that I’m all growns up, and turn a critical eye to the foundation of this belief, a historical book written many years ago, but also many years after Jesus’ life, bt a varied number of authors and serious doubt creeps in. Dive deeper into the content, and I see many inconsistencies of message, as well as God acting in ways not consistent with what I was taught.

    I have also come to not believe that faith is ‘virtuous’ anymore. faith is believing in somehting that is unseen. Why is this a route we want to teach people to live? Is it ok to have faith that if I walk off a cliff, God will save me? Why not? Why is it different than have faith he exists in the first place? Faith like this, is what leads parents to not give their diabetc kids medicine because they have faith that God will heal them without it. Faith likes this leads presidents to go to war because he believes God supports it.

    Ultimately, I believe man created God to have an answer to questions whose answers eluded them. To make them feel less small or vunerable. To feel protected.

    I believe it is nearly impossible to know what the Apostles were thinking, because how do I know the account of their stories weren’t mangled throughout time? Have you ever heard of the kid’s game “telephone”? And there are many possible explanations for what they did and felt. They could have been liars, mistaken, misinterpreted, mistranslated, or made up people to begin with.

    I now turn the question to you. Why do you believe in the Bible? And why don’t you believe in the Quran? Or Greek mythology? Or any other religion that touts a god-inspired text?

    I think that Christians WANT the Bible to be true, so they seek self-fulfilling reinforcement in nature, in their own emotions, and in the testimony of others. They turn away from anything that may contradict their ‘theory’. And this cycle self-captiualates into a pretty powerful FAITH that is difficult to break out of.

  • 54. orDover  |  September 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    50 Christians did not write down their eyewitness accounts immediately after the evens. And even if they had, eyewitness accounts are notoriously bad, and notoriously given to gross exaggeration, confirmation bias, groupthink.

    What if I really believe in my religion, and I’m excited and zealous. I have a burning desire to convert others to my religion, so I start talking to them about it. They want to know how God works in my life. I can think of a few stories, but to make them more impressive, I exaggerate them just a little bit, to make them sound more miraculous. My devotion to my faith has inspired a lie, but I believe that lie will do a greater good.

    The first gospel was written 70 years after the event of Jesus’s death. That leaves plenty of time for useful hyperbole, confirmation bias, and groupthink it work its way into the writings. The other gospels were written 100 years after Jesus, leaving even more room for white lies and exaggerations.

    I believe that it is far more likely that a group of religious zealots exaggerated a story to make their prophet sound better than a dead person who happened to be half-man, half-god died and then rose from the grave and then ascended to heaven.

  • 55. Cooper  |  September 10, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    The first gospel was written 70 years after the event of Jesus’s death. That leaves plenty of time for useful hyperbole, confirmation bias, and groupthink it work its way into the writings.

    orDover—

    70 years is NOT a lot of time actually. In 2011 it will be 70 years since Pearl Harbor. An event as catastrophic as that is not easily forgotten or warped in that short of time. Jesus’ death and ascension, witnessed by 50 or so believers, zealous for truth, and with sincere hearts. is not going to be “made up” to justify a religion. Why exaggerate a story, when MANY others confirmed Jesus’ miracles and life? The whole Christian life is one of devotion and sincerity of heart—-we ALL fail—but we seek to obey the truth and do what is right.

    If a Christian today is reluctant to take pens home from work as that might be “stealing” from their boss, do you think that 50 die-hard followers who saw Jesus on earth would outright lie about him ascending to heaven?? The SAW it and reported it. Peter also reported what he heard. John wrote down all that he saw and heard, and several others also. Paul the apostle SAW Jesus in heaven and heard his voice. Was Paul a purposeful liar?

    Many accurate historical books were written a couple of hundred years after the person’s death—-one of the Gospel’s was written only 70 years after his death—what makes it so susceptible to being filled with fantasy and lies? Eyewitness testimony can be disputed. But normally, if 50 people all claim to see the same thing, one is very prone to believe them. And I do.

  • 56. BigHouse  |  September 10, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    I’d check your accounts that all 50 saw “the same thing”.

  • 57. Cooper  |  September 10, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I’d check your accounts that all 50 saw “the same thing”.

    Bighouse—

    I’m sure the “exact” account might differ. “He went up inbetween two clouds” or “He went up through these three clouds” or “he was barefoot when he ascended” or “He had on sandals when he ascended” etc. etc.—–but when I say “same thing” I mean they SAW HIM ascend into heaven. In another place it says that 500 “brethren” saw him at the same time:

    He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 1 Cor 15.4-6

    When Paul wrote this Epistle he said a “greater part remain to the present”—so many of those who saw Jesus resurrected after his crucifixion (500 at one point) would swear with an oath that he was alive, and that he had ascended. I’m sure stories would vary about what he wore, the color of his hair, his eyes, etc. etc.—-but ALL OF THEM claimed to have seen him and testified of such. For me that is huge evidence—I put that beside the Apostles, disciples, etc. and there is too much evidence that he existed, that he did rise again, and that he did ascend into heaven. I truly do believe it.

  • 58. john t.  |  September 10, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Cooper
    “70 years is NOT a lot of time actually. In 2011 it will be 70 years since Pearl Harbor. An event as catastrophic as that is not easily forgotten or warped in that short of time.”

    Just the fact that you think this was catastrophic says it all. Compared to what has gone on in the world in the last 70yrs, this event was a blip comparably. And by the way there are many different versions of why and how Pearl Harbour actually happened. 70yrs is unbelievably long to keep an original story alive and somewhat accurate only from oral tradition.

  • 59. orDover  |  September 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    An event as catastrophic as that is not easily forgotten or warped in that short of time. Jesus’ death and ascension, witnessed by 50 or so believers, zealous for truth, and with sincere hearts. is not going to be “made up” to justify a religion. Why exaggerate a story, when MANY others confirmed Jesus’ miracles and life?

    You’re basing your entire argument, and indeed your entire belief system, on the idea that you can understand the hearts, minds, and intentions of a group of people who lived 2,000 years ago and were desperate to convince other people of their opinions. You don’t really know anything about them or their motives. You don’t even really know their names or when they wrote their accounts. You certainly don’t know that they were “sincere of heart.” But you have convinced yourself, based on nothing but emotion and an a priori decision that the Bible is true, that there is no way they could have lied, exaggerated, or even just been mistaken. They had a definite agenda: convert followers. That alone is enough to be suspicious of them. But you won’t see that because you’ve already made up your mind based on your emotional response.

    I mean they SAW HIM ascend into heaven

    You can’t confirm this. The only account of the resurrection is in the Bible itself. The majority of the people who the Bible claims witnessed the account didn’t actually wrote about it. Nothing outside of the Bible says anything about it at all. That’s like saying that Odysseus blinded the cyclopes and that his men who were with him saw it too, thus that makes it true. His men SAW HIM blind the cyclopes! It’s all there in the book!

    Many accurate historical books were written a couple of hundred years after the person’s death

    That all depends on what you mean by “accurate.” It is undisputed fact that every journalist and historian inserts his or her own person biases into their writing, whether it be intentional or not. With every historical accounts I’ve ever read, I’ve always been careful to keep in mind that very fact. Nothing is objective. Nothing is perfectly accurate. Nothing is perfectly honest. Just like the old adage, “history is written by the victor.” Social and personal biases, not to mention history alone, affect writing. That’s a fact.

    As john t mentioned, even with recent history, there are several different versions. He mentioned Pearl Harbor. I have another one: September 11th. There were tons of eyewitnesses, but they saw vastly different things. Some swear that they saw explosions at the base of the buildings, and that they were collapsed in the style of controlled demolition and not from the damage of the planes. A few of those people got together and started a movement: 9/11 Truth. They weren’t right. And they didn’t see what they think they saw. They wrote down an account, but it was false. It’s also possible they spiced it up with a few lies to make it sound more believable or more sensational.

    I get that you’ve made a decision to believe the eyewitness accounts of unknown sources that are 2,000 years old. I want you to get why I find the accounts underwhelming, lacking in authority, and why they aren’t even close to being enough to convince me to believe in a religion.

  • 60. Pat Man  |  September 10, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Cooper,
    With respect, I don’t think you are aware that arguments from “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” isn’t the best way to go here.

    Cooper, bless you for trying but please stop. Here’s the problem with Christians (and I am one). We have put ourselves into a corner. Let’s be honest, our faith is invisible, there is no proof (the kind being requested) that it is based on. For a “market” that demands proof, we cannot provide.

    Watching Christians do this is agonizing–like watching a turtle on its back. Cooper, I know you are trying to get people to “think” your way but not everyone has the same fetishes.

    Christians “look” like fools to people because we believe with no scientific proof–fine! So what? Cooper, just take it. We don’t need to fake creation science, insist that prayer works, or anything like that to try to appeal to more people. Our faith is meant to appeal to people’s hearts–and then it is the “magical” HS to work in them–What did Christ say to Thomas?

    Also, using scripture in a market that has “been there, done that, bought the lame T-shirt from Promise Keepers” isn’t going work. They have arguments that (to them) prove the scriptures are not inspired. I don’t agree with them, but I honestly understand their points.

    Your faith needs to incorporate the physical IN to your metaphysical–not the other way around. I’m not bashing scripture (my patron saint is Jerome).

    Oh and the topic of fear…
    I like the topic but disagree with most people here. However, THIS is the kind of stuff that the churches need to discuss! The church used to engage like this, now we hide in our “fortress on a hill.” So I will now PROVE myself right by ducking out.

    G’night.

  • 61. silentj  |  September 10, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Pat Man,

    I appreciate your comments.

    I’m not sure you were making this claim, but I just wanted to address it:

    Folks who want reason and evidence don’t dismiss feeling. Feeling is an integral part to all of our lives. However, feeling should also have some connection to tangible reality.

    The only reason I point this out is because atheists and agnostics are often made out to be fact checking androids with no shred of emotion, which isn’t the case. I can only speak for myself, but I imagine most atheists still love their family and friends, experience moments akin to the sublime, and have irrational passions; these make us human.

    The biggest difference between agnostics/atheists and believers isn’t a dichotomy between robots and care bears. Rather, the difference is that non-believers can’t base their lives on an idea or entity which has no tangible evidence in reality.

    I couldn’t agree more that Christianity is an appeal to the heart. Unfortunately for Christians who may want to convince me otherwise, I cannot differentiate Christianity’s appeal to the heart from any other organization, company, or religion that seeks to persuade solely through the emotion.

  • 62. ubi dubium  |  September 11, 2008 at 12:36 am

    PatMan, thank you so much for your comments. Honest understanding of other points of view is one of the reasons I come to this site. I hope Cooper can lay off the evangelism and just engage in interesting conversation.

  • 63. Pat Man  |  September 11, 2008 at 2:04 am

    Thanks for having me.

  • 64. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Just the fact that you think this was catastrophic says it all. Compared to what has gone on in the world in the last 70yrs, this event was a blip comparably. And by the way there are many different versions of why and how Pearl Harbour actually happened. 70yrs is unbelievably long to keep an original story alive and somewhat accurate only from oral tradition.

    John T.—

    Come on. Sure–in 70 years certain aspects of Pearl Harbor may have suffered ulteration and need to be checked out, but the main theme is there: The Japanese made a suprise attack.

    It is very doubtful that an event such as a man ascending into heaven is going to be ultered from jumping off a rock in 70 years time. The basic theme is there: THEY SAW HIM ascend into heaven. Whatever “aspects” of the ascension story may have ultered are not really important—what is important is the fact that HE DID ascend.

  • 65. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    To clarify—-oral tradition over a 70 year span is not going to be ultered to the extent that all the witnesses claim they saw Jesus ascend into heaven when it never happened. Even without computers etc, we can track our own relatives fairly accurately over a 70 year period (it is only about a generation)—-a story in our family history will take a few generations to warp into some other completely untrue story. For instance, my Dad was a P-38 pilot in world war 2. This was 64 years ago. I know this “fact” and it cannot be altered. Perhaps 10 generations from now through “story telling” he will have become the greatest ace who ever lived (if no one checks the internet and just takes it from word of mouth)—but in one generation that just isn’t going to happen.

    The same applies to Jesus. Only 70 years after his death 500 people were saying that he did indeed resurrect and ascend into heaven. That is pretty solid evidence actually.

  • 66. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    correction on two posts above : “altered” not “ultered” sorry

  • 67. john t.  |  September 11, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Cooper
    “That is pretty solid evidence actually.”

    Actually its not very solid at all. Police say that eye witness accounts are the least accurate of evidence used. Face it Cooper, its totally based on your faith in what others tell you, nothing more, nothing less.

  • 68. BigHouse  |  September 11, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    It also assumes the the writers of the text acually sought to, and did so, just capture what happened 70 years. I find it hard to believe that no serious game of ‘telephone” happened to the story to give it more punch and effect.

  • 69. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 11, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I’m going to write a book, claiming my friend Peter ascended to god-hood, and that 500 people witnessed it. 2000 years from now, I hope it will be the source of a major religion. People will point to those 500 witnesses I made up as evidence that Peter really did ascend to god-hood.

    Seriously, the fact that the Bible says 500 people witnessed him after his resurrection is hardly evidence for anything, especially when we don’t even have testimony from any of those 500 people, just some guy writing that it happened.

  • 70. LeoPardus  |  September 11, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    People are actually trying to use Pearl Harbor and Jesus’ resurrection as comparisons for historical reliability?????!!!! Yikes! C’mon, folks. THINK about it.

  • 71. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    People are actually trying to use Pearl Harbor and Jesus’ resurrection as comparisons for historical reliability?????!!!! Yikes! C’mon, folks. THINK about it.

    LeoPardus—

    I chose Pearl Harbor because it was so close to 70 years ago. I could choose a number of things that happened only 70 years ago, that we know are true and have not been altered dramatically. Small details may have—but the event itself is recognized as true, because of the eye-witnesses that saw the whole thing happen (Hindenberg 1937 for example)—they acconts may differ on certain points, but there is no denying that the airship blew up and fell to the ground. That event cannot be altered after only 70 years—too many witnesses saw it happen who were credible.

    The witnesses to the ascension were also credible—that is why they were believed, and Christianity continued to grow.

  • 72. BigHouse  |  September 11, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    The witnesses to the ascension were also credible—that is why they were believed, and Christianity continued to grow.

    Can you elaborate on this?

  • 73. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    BigHouse–

    Paul in 1 Corinthians says that “500” people at one time saw Jesus and that many of them were still living when he wrote the Epistle. These were not people prone to lying about anything–they were credible witnesses–people of character who sought to live sincere lives.

    My Dad, as I mentioned, was a P-38 pilot in WW2. He is credited with shooting down (2) enemy planes during the war. This is in the Air Force records based solely on the record of two witnesses who saw him shoot down the planes. They had no reason to lie about it. Unless you want to try to say my Dad “paid them off” to lie about his “kills”.

    If my Dad’s pilot record can be established on two eyewitness accounts from 64 years ago, I think I can believe the accounts of 500 people 70 years or less after the death of Jesus Christ, and what they saw happen.

  • 74. ubi dubium  |  September 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Cooper – you are missing the point.
    We don’t have 500 eyewitness accounts. We don’t have any eyewitness accounts. What we have is secondhand at best, perhaps thirdhand or worse. Tales get changed in the retelling, and the more removed from the original, the bigger the changes. Ever played “telephone” as a child? The original message is usually unrecognizable by the end of the chain.

    So to your claims of the veracity of what somebody said some witnesses saw, I say “Objection! Hearsay!”

  • 75. BigHouse  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    And Cooper, please understand, that the high level of unreliability of the evidence DOES NOT mean that it COULD NOT have happened as described, it just means that it is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY. Hence, the de-cons choose not to believe it.

  • 76. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    So to your claims of the veracity of what somebody said some witnesses saw, I say “Objection! Hearsay!”

    Ubi—

    Then much of accepted history is “objectionable hearsay” also. As I mentioned above—The Air Force, in it’s very records lists my father as having shot down two planes based solely on eyewitness testimony—–they didn’t ask if people were playing “telephone” when delivering the facts to them. They accepted the viable eyewitness testimony of people considered to be of upstanding character, and who had nothing to gain by reporting what they saw.

    Many events in history are not on film, or recorded in any way. Yet we accept them based on what a few people say happened. If we get to a place where we cannot accept the accounts given by viable eyewitnesses from the past, then all of history comes under question. How do we know events written in History books are true? How can we accept them?

    The only thing that comes into play is time. How viable were those 500 witnesses? Paul in his epistle found them to be viable witnesses. And hundreds and hundreds more found Paul to be a viable witness. Church leaders found Paul’s letters to be viable and so on and so on. If we can come to the conclusion that all of those witnesses were not really witnesses at all, then we need to question ALL of history that is not on film or recorded tape, or that does not meet our criteria of what a viable witness is. And if we did that we would consider ALL history as fantasy that could not be “proven” to us. There comes a point when one either accepts a viable eyewitness account, or one doesn’t. The eyewitness accounts, the apostles, the disciples, the 500, the church leaders, the manuscripts—what more do we need? If we can’t accept that then we won’t accept any history.

  • 77. LeoPardus  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Cooper:

    I’ll reiterate, …….. THINK about it. …..

    Let me know when you figure out just a few of the MAJOR reasons why the comparison is ridiculous.

    Or maybe someone else will pipe in and do your thinking for you.

  • 78. BigHouse  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Then much of accepted history is “objectionable hearsay” also. As I mentioned above—The Air Force, in it’s very records lists my father as having shot down two planes based solely on eyewitness testimony—–they didn’t ask if people were playing “telephone” when delivering the facts to them. They accepted the viable eyewitness testimony of people considered to be of upstanding character, and who had nothing to gain by reporting what they saw.

    The fact that you think this event and Jesus’ resurrection are remotely comparable means I think this discussion just ended.

  • 79. BigHouse  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I owe you a Coke, Leo..

  • 80. ubi dubium  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Cooper
    You are still missing the point. None of those original eyewitnesses wrote anything down. Not one. Jewish kids are traditionally taught how to read Hebrew, so we are not talking about an illiterate society here. Yet, we have not one account we can say was written by somebody who was actually there.

    Paul had his own agenda. He was trying to found a new mystery religion based off of the teachings of a mystic he never even met, plus ample borrowings from other mystery religions. I have no reason to think he was more concerned with historical accuracy than he was with making converts. I think he wrote down his favorite versions of the second and third hand stories he heard, and embellished them if he thought it would help.

    Sorry – you are still arguing the literal truth of one book. Historians don’t do that. They want multiple sources, firsthand accounts. And physical evidence too, if they can get it.

    If the Air Force, instead of having eyewitness accounts of your father’s shooting down planes, only had a report that “Mr. Jones said he heard that Mr. Smith say that his father saw several planes go down fifty years ago”, I don’t think they’d put their trust in that. That’s the kind of thing you are arguing we should accept. Hearsay.

  • 81. BigHouse  |  September 11, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    If the Air Force, instead of having eyewitness accounts of your father’s shooting down planes, only had a report that “Mr. Jones said he heard that Mr. Smith say that his father saw several planes go down fifty years ago”, I don’t think they’d put their trust in that. That’s the kind of thing you are arguing we should accept. Hearsay.

    Not to mention the gravity of the claim’s repurcussions. I don’t think the Air Force is too worried whether the claim is accurate or not, nor should any of us be.

    But if the claim leads to either salvation or eternal torment or the (non)believer, I think there needs be more behind the claim’s source.

  • 82. silentj  |  September 11, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    This is not real. However, I’m writing about the passing of a dog.

    Spot died. On the third day, he arose from the Earth and ascended into Heaven. His soul parted the clouds, rising up to the dog house in the sky.

    Now, assume I wrote a similar thing about my pet and told a bunch of people. 1/2 may think I literally mean his body drifted up through the clouds. The other half would realize it was metaphorical. All of them would appreciate the beautiful vision of the dog going to Heaven, especially if they met and loved the dog. They could even pass this story on to their children, who could tell other kids about the story.

    Now, the dog didn’t do anything but stay in the ground and feed the trees. However, because I wanted to express a beautiful image of the dog’s last act to my family and friends, suddenly a cult arises about how the dog defied death and is God’s incarnation as the Doggod.

    It wouldn’t take much for a few more embellishments to pop up for this story to really become an interesting religious story.

    Suffice to say, the credibility of the Bible is suspect to say the least. The fact that no events in natural history have corroborated this story since it was written 2,000 years ago suggests that the Bible is indeed not a book of truth so much as it is a wonderful literary work.

  • 83. Big Dan  |  September 11, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Cooper,

    Let me know when you figure out just a few of the MAJOR reasons why the comparison is ridiculous. Or maybe someone else will pipe in and do your thinking for you.

    For the avoidance of doubt, can I just chip in with a couple of obvious ones?

    1. Presumably the eyewitness reports of your Dad’s kills were committed to paper within days of the actual event. Therefore, barring malicious tampering, the reports won’t have changed since a few days after the event.

    2. Shooting down enemy planes during wartime is a fairly commonplace occurrence. It’s unlikely that anyone would respond to the eyewitness accounts with “What? Are you serious? Shot down two planes? That’s impossible! I’ve never heard anything like it!”

    Compare and contrast with the events portrayed in the gospels.

  • 84. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Cooper:

    I’ll reiterate, …….. THINK about it. …..

    Let me know when you figure out just a few of the MAJOR reasons why the comparison is ridiculous.

    Or maybe someone else will pipe in and do your thinking for you.

    LeoPardus–

    You are doing it again. You are posting a reply before even reading a post. It is perfectly legitimate to take two different things from history and compare them. I am bringing up recent events because someone said 70 years is a long time. It is not a long time at all. You THINK about it.

  • 85. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Yet, we have not one account we can say was written by somebody who was actually there.

    Paul wrote about the 500 witnesses. He said many of them were still alive. We accept the writings of Tacitus or Josephus—-why not Paul? Why would it be necessary for one of the 500 to write something?—-besides how do you know that MATTHEW, MARK OR JOHN, PETER, or JUDE were not part of those people? Some of them wrote about the ascension—-they are giving first hand witness to it.

    You are looking at Pearl Harbor and the Resurrection and saying it is ridiculous to compare them. I am not comparing them—I am using only the conception of time—-and 70 years is not a long period of time—it is basically a generation.

    Pearl harbor to today is almost 70 years. The ascension to the book of Mark was 70 years. My Dad’s Air Force career until now is almost 70 years. How much can Pearl Harbor, or may Dad’s career in the Air Force be manipulated into ridiculous proportions? It’s very difficult—-because some of the people are alive/or were alive until just recently who SAW it happen. The same regards MARK’s Gospel—–most of the people were still alive, or recently deceased when it was written—they could either verify or nullify events—they KNEW it because they SAW it—-mock all you want–it’s true.

  • 86. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Presumably the eyewitness reports of your Dad’s kills were committed to paper within days of the actual event. Therefore, barring malicious tampering, the reports won’t have changed since a few days after the event.

    So what if it was committed to paper? They are still committed to paper because an eyewitness said he SAW it happen. If ten years later they needed to re-verify the event would they go to the paper, or to the person again who SAW it happen? The Air Force put and still puts a lot of weight into eyewitness accounts—-eyewitnesses are responsible for the Medal of Honor being awarded in most cases. Those events are not on film—-they are spoken verbally to an officer who writes down what happened. But the event is still confimed by the eyewitness. Matthew wrote down and so did many others, that the events happened, or that other reliable witnesses SAW it happen. And 500 witnesses is a pretty good sum of people to have witnessed Jesus alive after crufixion and ascending to heaven.

  • 87. LeoPardus  |  September 11, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Damn! My bad. I forgot that Cooper (in his current guise or that of his prior sock puppet incarnations) isn’t able to think. His level of mental maelstrom reminds me of the street people in AZ.

  • 88. LeoPardus  |  September 11, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Damn again. I forgot my own maxim about feeding trolls. I’ll stop now.

  • 89. ubi dubium  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Leo – agreed. Cooper keeps making the same argument over and over, even though it is obvious that we are not buying it. Until he is ready to make an argument that does not start with the assumption of Biblical infallibility, I’m done responding to him.

    Cooper – please go watch the YouTube video How to Convert an Atheist. Please watch both Part 1 and Part 2. This may help.

  • 90. orDover  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    His level of mental maelstrom reminds me of the street people in AZ.

    Omigodz! Are you from AZ?

  • 91. silentj  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Cooper, here is a basic chart, without having the proper tool to construct one on here.

    Account A: Paul accounts that 500 people saw Jesus physically ascend to Heaven. (Presumably, by way of Jupiter.)

    Account B: The military records that Cooper’s father shot down a plain.

    Physical plausibility of each event:

    A: Virtually impossible, if not impossible. Though, we have flown to the moon. (Mars next, then Heaven?)

    B: Fairly plausible. Assuming Cooper’s father was a guy with normal faculties and moderate training and was in the general area of Pearl Harbor at the time, there is no reason to believe this could not be true.

    Facts to corroborate the event:

    A: We’re pretty sure there was an actual man named Jesus who was tried and executed on a cross. We don’t have a lot of reason to doubt that. After he died, we have some documents written many years later stating that others saw him ascend to Heaven. No other event like this has ever happened. No legitimate miracle has occurred since then.

    B. http://images.google.com/images?gbv=2&um=1&hl=en&rlz=1B2GGFB_enUS249&q=%22pearl+harbor%22+shot+down+plane+-movie&start=18&sa=N&ndsp=18

    If half of these images are related to Pearl Harbor, that’s 12,000 images that piece together what happened there.

    You can go sit on the guns used to shoot down the planes:

    We know that planes fly, that bullets fly, and that bullets can shoot down planes, especially if fired through a gun, which is likely operated by a soldier.

    Perhaps God just chose a technologically inconvenient time to send his son. However, one has to wonder why God would only allow His message to be spread in such a questionable way when he could easily produce a true sign, as he did fairly regularly in the good book. Yet, despite millions of people begging for a sign, we don’t get one, other than some coincidences like people miraculously surviving disasters. (which doesn’t really address why others were allowed to die. God’s plan?)

  • 92. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Damn again. I forgot my own maxim about feeding trolls. I’ll stop now.

    I really don’t understand this form of conversation. I am coming from an area you may not agree with, but I’m not trying to cause an argument—-I am stating my “take” on eyewitness accounts. I really don’t understand how you can’t grasp that concept.

    We accept the accounts of Tacitus or Josephus as “history”. Archaeologists have confirmed the Bible is actually very accurate in it’s historical accounts, placement of cities, and chronology of rulers of the time. If we can accept the eyewitness account of Tacitus and his writings (among many others), why can’t we accept the writings of Paul the Apostle, or others as accurate? You may want “proof” that the miracles he talks about actually happened, but do you need “proof” that he SAYS THEY DID? Why do Paul’s writings have to be fantasy, when other historians of the time are fully accepted? I am asking a real question–despite your mockery of my position and thoughts.

  • 93. silentj  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Did those histories record events that we now believe to be impossible?

  • 94. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    His level of mental maelstrom reminds me of the street people in AZ.

    Have I personally attacked anyone here? Geez—Your ease at insulting people with it’s inferred ineptness clashes with your superior intellgence.

  • 95. Cooper  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Did those histories record events that we now believe to be impossible?

    silentj—

    The “events” may appear to be impossible to some, but did the people who said them really exist? That is the question I am asking. We accept Tacitus and his accounts, why not Paul and his? That is all I am asking.

  • 96. silentj  |  September 11, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    I don’t know a lot about Tacitus, nor do I use his writings as a foundation to guide my life.

    However, I think the reason people put more stock in Tacitus’ histories is that they are generally verifiable by other documents of the time and do not contain events which seem highly unlikely or impossible. If, for example, he claimed that Nero’s head was cut off and Nero’s body then walked 100 feet, picked up the head, and placed it back on his body, we would probably question the history a great deal more.

    To use a simple modern example, let’s assume two kids came up to you.

    Child A: “I just saw a guy bounce a ball on his head five times in a row.”

    Child B: “I just saw a guy kick a ball up to the moon.”

    Which are you likely to believe?

  • 97. Richard  |  September 12, 2008 at 1:55 am

    I am a latecomer to this discussion, but Ill toss my hat in the ring.
    The difference between the WW2 example and the example of Paul and the supposed 500 witnesses has to do with the intrinsic plausibility of the events in question. Shooting down two airplanes is not miraculous. Yes, it is based on eyewitnesses, but since this was a common and entirely ordinary thing to expect from a pilot (that was a fighter pilots job, after all), a lower level of evidence is appropriate.
    For supernatural and miraculous events, a much higher standard of evidence is required because we do not normally go around claiming “miracle” as the best explanation for things we see in our everyday lives.
    A better comparison example would be if the WW2 claim was that, according to one eyewitness report, the pilot stopped his plane in midair, walked out onto the wing (frozen in space), and starting hurling the 127 enemy planes to the ground King-Kong style. Then he did a perfect rendition of “Where the Streets Have No Name” (55 years before U2) while still on the wing, and then got back in and landed safely while asleep. And according to this eyewitness, “500 people” – regular old military guys – saw this happen. Unfortunately, none of those 500 wrote about it or have ever been interviewed.
    Oh, and the eyewitness who reported this was trying to promote a claim that the pilot was a superhuman alien who will save the world from destruction.
    Now, *that’s* a more fair comparison. So, on the basis of this eyewitness less than 70 years ago – and nothing more — would anyone out there accept this account as true?

  • 98. Richard  |  September 12, 2008 at 1:57 am

    Or, another example. There are lots of folks out there right now — you can go talk to them — who will claim that they themselves have been abducted by UFOs. There are people currently lving, there are (literally) thousands of them, that can be interviewed direcly.

    Do we believe these “eyewitnesses”?

  • 99. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 12, 2008 at 3:01 am

    We accept Tacitus and his accounts, why not Paul and his?

    Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. You mention your dad’s fighter kills, which I accept. Were you to claim your dad did this by firing beams of plasma from his eyes, and your only proof is a book written by some guy who claims 500 eyewitnesses reported this to him (with no mention of who these eyewitnesses are), I’m not going to believe you.

  • 100. BigHouse  |  September 12, 2008 at 7:56 am

    The biggest irony of this all is Christian’s deny the evidence of hte evolution FOR THE EXACT SAME REASONS that Cooper is debunking here. It’s too ‘extraordinary’ a claim that we evolved over billions of years to them.

  • 101. Anonomouse  |  September 12, 2008 at 10:51 am

    “The biggest irony of this all is Christian’s deny the evidence of hte evolution FOR THE EXACT SAME REASONS that Cooper is debunking here. It’s too ‘extraordinary’ a claim that we evolved over billions of years to them.”

    Except for all the mountains of Evidence that supports Evolution.

    Irony, I don’t think it means what You think it means.

  • 102. BigHouse  |  September 12, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I butchered my post that you so snarkily attacked, let me try to rephrase.

    Cooper claims he has enough evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. Those debating him claim that they require much more extaordinary evidence to support such a claim. Cooper denies that is necessary,

    Those who dismiss evolution, do so because they believe the claim that we evolved over billions of years is such an extraordinary claim that is requires much more evidence over what exists now.

    So on one hand, extrardinary evidence is not required when the extraordinary claim is one’s own belief, but is required when it debunks their belief.

    Hence, irony. Maybe more like hypocrisy.

  • 103. Anonomouse  |  September 12, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    “It doesn’t make much sense to me either. However, I realize there is much I do notreally understand. ”

    Thats all there is. God is just an excuse to make stuff up about things you don’t understand.

    It fills an emotional need, but not an intellectual need.

  • 104. Anonomouse  |  September 12, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Cooper has evidence?

    Evidence, I don’t think it means what You think it means.

    “Hence, irony. Maybe more like hypocrisy.”

    Hypocrisy, You’re using it wrong.

  • 105. Richard  |  September 12, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Re: evolution
    Again, this is apples and oranges, and moreover is tangential to the topic at hand,. Even if it is were true that evolution needed more evidence than it has, that would not make the claim of Jesus’ ressurection based on nothing more than the eyewitness of a couple of highly zealous believers any more convincing. Are ytou saying we should reject evolution AND Jesus’ divinity? Or accept both?

    Those who think evolution requires “extraordinary evidence” are, may I gently suggest, unfamiliar with said evidence. As someone said (cant find the quote right now) : nothing in biology makes any sense except in light of evolutionary theory.

    Yes, complexity from simplicity is a bold claim, but much less so than creation ex nihilo by an invisible superbeing. Honestly, is that somehow less “extraordinary” than evolution?

  • 106. Cooper  |  September 12, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I understand what you are saying basically, but you see, I combine all the eyewitness accounts with historical manuscript evidence, the NT itself, and lastly my own experience.

    Just out of curiosity, how would you react to this: I still remember this as clear as if it had happened earlier today. And I have have several other occurences which are just as real. I was on my way to Junior College–at the time I was very poor, and did not have a car, and was extremely limited on funds. On the bus I remembered that I HAD to buy a book for a class I had or I would have to drop out of class that very day. The teacher had said that if you did not have the needed tools for the class then he would drop students to make room for others who wanted to get into the class.

    I don’t remember the exact amount I had in my pocket, but I do remember that I needed $20.00 and there was no way I was going to be able to get it before the class. I did not have any friends, or anyone to lend me the money. I remember saying
    “Lord, what am I going to do?” (it was not a prayer of faith—more of a complaint if you will). It was basically a cry for help. I got off the bus, and walked across the street, and I remember it was a very windy day. As I began to walk I asked God if there was any way he could help me. I looked up, and to my right at eye level was a $20.00 bill stuck against the chain-link fence by the wind. I was dumb-founded—-but “surprised by joy” at the same time. To me it was miraculous. I am the only “eye-witness” to this event—but I
    know that it happened.

    Now—-if I was a de-con I guess I would have said “there is no empirical evidence God provided me this money. How do I know it was God? Maybe it was pure coincidence. Yeah–I just happened to need $20.00, cried out to God for help, and on this day, though I have walked this route many days
    in a row there just happens to be a $20.00 bill stuck to the fence directly in my path—-but I heard no voice, so no hand, and basically, this could have happened to anyone.

    But, I am not a de-con, and I KNOW the Lord provided me that money on that day. The Bible says the Father “knows what we have need of before we even ask Him”—this was indeed the case. Most likely that $20.00 bill was pasted there before I got off the bus and remembered about the book I needed. But
    God provided it–of this I am sure. Can I prove it? No–I cannot. Many other such things have happened in my life also. As a Christian I realize that many things God does cannot be empirically proven—and that is what makes it so hard to try to debate, or to state I KNOW God exists without sounding “holier than thou”. The fact is I absolutely cannot deny in any way that he is there—-because I know he is—he has proven himself to me far too many times for me NOT to believe. I have heard no physical voice, seen no physical proof–I have only seen the effects of God’s hand in my life.

    My question to you is how do you know that what you often call coincidence is not God at work in your life? Coincidences do exist of course, but there are some coincidences that are just too amazing to be just chance.

  • 107. Quester  |  September 12, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Ah, I had wondered what God was doing while people are suffering from poverty, disease, drought, hurricanes and earthquakes. Apparently, he’s helping you pay for your textbooks.

    I’m glad to see the all-powerful creator of all that is loves you so very much, Cooper. Since He seems to be listening to you, can you ask Him to stop piddling around with nickel and dime coincidences and start making with the miracles? People are in unimaginable pain- many of them devout Christians- and the occasional trick with a twenty isn’t doing a damned thing to help them.

  • 108. silentj  |  September 12, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Cooper,

    I had a similar experience selling some things where a man offered me the exact amount of money I needed to pay a bill. That doesn’t mean the transaction was God inspired. It was just coincidence.

    Reflect back: think of the many times you have made the same prayer/demand/request and it didn’t come true. Why did God provide for you during that one event and not the others?

    Mysterious plan, I guess.

    Quester,

    I’m also wondering what in the world God is doing giving producing a 20 dollar bill stuck to a fence when young people were dying probably in the same city.

    Meanwhile, I’m also wondering why some people were saved by God on 9/11 while the others were left to die.

    Maybe God just likes dice games.

  • 109. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 12, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I combine all the eyewitness accounts with historical manuscript evidence

    You found the 500 eyewitness accounts? Or do you mean the one account of a man who claimed there were 500 eyewitnesses? There’s quite a difference.

    Anyway, gotta love the Post Hoc fallacy. The evidence you just provided, Cooper, is exactly why people believe in all kinds of pseudoscientific nonsense. Just because one event happened after another, does not mean the first event caused the second.

    Do you realize how many people are wishing they had $20 at any given moment? It’s not surprising at all that a person would wish for $20 and then immediately find a $20 bill. It’s certainly more plausible than winning the lottery. That you needed $20 and then found $20 is just a coincidence, one that I’ll bet happens more often than you think.

  • 110. ordover  |  September 12, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    When my husband and I went on our first date we were both very broke. We decided to go see a movie, and afterward went to a lame mall food court to try to get some cheap food. I had just enough cash for myself, and I was starving, so we decided I would get food and he would just watch me eat. After I ordered we sat down at a table, and as if often the “getting to know you” ritual, I asked to see his wallet. As I went through it, asking about the various scraps of paper and laughing at his old driver’s license photo I found a $5 bill! It was just enough for him to get some food too, and we were able to have a meal together, just as we had been hoping! He swore up and down he had no idea that they $5 bill was there, and that if he would have he would have spent it long before our date.

    I think Jesus must have hidden that bill in his wallet just so we could have that special silly-romantic first date, which hand a hand in us falling in love and getting married. I even bet that if we hadn’t been atheists we would have thanked him right then and there.

    (Yes, that’s a true story. Except the Jesus part, which is sarcasm.)

  • 111. Cooper  |  September 12, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    orDover—

    I am not saying every coincidence is God-inspired. Let me repeat something—-I had walked past that same fence many, many times. On this one particular day, when I specifically needed $20.00, and specifically ASKED for help (“Lord, I need twenty dollars–where am I going to get it?”) there was a $20.00 bill stuck on a fence. It was very different than just “finding” a $5.00 bill in a wallet. As to why God would worry about a small prayer for $20.00–and ignore suffering people–my answer is he isn’t. God doesn’t answer EVERY prayer for $20.00—–it was something that happened that one day and has STAYED WITH ME as an example and reminder that God is indeed there.

    God never promised in the Bible to alleviate all world hunger, or disease, or catastrophes—as a matter of fact he said they would increase in intensity as the hour of his return approached. Right now, Hurricane Ike may turn out to be one of the largest and most devastating hurricanes in US history—just saw it on the news. Natural disasters are increasing at an alarming rate. Jesus never promised to eliminate them, or lessen them—he said they would INCREASE in the last days, along with famine and disease. All you have to do is read the Bible to see that. But in the midst of it all God IS answering prayers–many of them—-I gave my “little” example as a reason that I believe so strongly—–I have seen God answer even the smallest and insignificant prayers—-and sometimes he “appears” not to hear at all. But if we were able to figure him out or how he works he wouldn’t be God would he?

  • 112. Cooper  |  September 12, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    I have to add—almost every Christian (and I am sure some de-cons also) have a few unexplicable things that have happened to them as a result of prayer. When you read the Psalms you see David say that he is depressed, but then he begins to recount the miracles of the Lord, and how the Lord dealt with him IN THE PAST.

    I believe the Lord answers some prayers in a profound way as something we remember for a long time. When we begin to lose faith we can recall these amazing things, and how the Lord worked, and it helps reinforce us, and to assuage the doubt we so easily fall into.(“the sin which so easily besets us” as Hebrews says, which is “unbelief”). That day with the $20.00 I believe was one of those days. My prayer was specifically answered as an example. There have been other times where my prayers were not answered—or “appeared” not to be answered at all. God has his ways of dealing with his children—I cannot explain them—I’m finite, he is infinite.

    I realize though that these kind of posts are most likely quite annoying to you as you want empirical proof, and would rather doubt an extremely unlikely event as being the hand of God, and raher put it all to “coincidence”. With that type of mindset it’s going to be pretty hard to accept anything as coming from God unless you see the ocean parted, or see manna fall from heaven. Good luck. :)

  • 113. ordover  |  September 12, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    I have to add—almost every Christian (and I am sure some de-cons also) have a few unexplicable things that have happened to them as a result of prayer.

    Nope.

  • 114. Pat Man  |  September 12, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Cooper, If you don’t mind, what sort of Christianity do you practice/believe?

    This is not a set up question of any kind. I agree with almost everything you say, I just don’t agree with how you say it.

  • 115. ordover  |  September 12, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I am not saying every coincidence is God-inspired.

    So my story is a coincidence, and yours is a miracle because you asked for help and found money on the street? That’s…laughable.

    You think that God answers your request for $20 and empty parking spaces, despite the fact that these are extremely common occurrence that are overwhelmingly likely to happen to everyone in their life time? We all find empty parking spaces when it seems like we will never ever find one. We all find money on the street, and yeah, a lot of the time we happen to really need it.

    I found money when I both wanted it and needed it. I’m sure I even asked for it. I’m sure said, and even said aloud, “I wish we had just a little bit more money so we could both eat!” Then my wish came true, and it made my date better, a date which contributed directly to me falling in love. I find it nothing short of comical that you think your story is a special miracle and that mind is a banal coincidence.

  • 116. ordover  |  September 12, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    I’m sorry for the serial posting, but I just have to add that if I was a Christian, and if I had said “Jesus, I could use a little more money” instead of just wishing for it, you would be jumping up and down about how incredible my $5 miracle was. The only real difference here is that I’m not a believer and you are. Our stories are not different.

  • 117. john t.  |  September 12, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Cooper
    “I have to add—almost every Christian (and I am sure some de-cons also) have a few unexplicable things that have happened to them as a result of prayer”

    Just curious, if someone has some great inexplicable things happen from praying, does that mean they have to believe its because of a Christian God??

  • 118. Anonomouse  |  September 12, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    “God doesn’t answer EVERY prayer for $20.00—–it was something that happened that one day and has STAYED WITH ME as an example and reminder that God is indeed there.”

    Your god must be very small and impotent to hide behind everyday coinciences.

    Just think of how many converts he could get if he just levitated the Exxon Valdez into the air and stuffed all the oil back into it and flew it around for an hour or two.

    But no, all the “Big” Miracles are way way back in the past. Now days the best god can do is 20$ bills and cloudy stains on trees and windows and cheeze sammiches.

  • 119. Richard  |  September 12, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    I realize though that these kind of posts are most likely quite annoying to you as you want empirical proof, and would rather doubt an extremely unlikely event as being the hand of God, and raher put it all to “coincidence”.

    Cooper, I personally dont mind a bit if you wish to interpret your experience as evidence of God. But c’mon — surely you can see how someone might not see it that way without just having an unreasonably hardened heart.

    From the perspective of the nonbeliever, if you want to see your $20 as a sign from God, then you need to have satisfactory answers to a whole lot of other questions, like:

    1. Why does he fuss over your twenty bucks and allows billions to suffer? Why, specifically, will Jesus “increase them”, as you say, rather than alleviating suffering?
    2. Why do similar occurences in adherents to other religions not count as evidence of miracles of other Gods?
    3. In the same vein, why does the appearance of the $20 count as evidence of a specifically *Chrisitan* God, rather than Zeus or Allah or Shiva? Or Elvis for that matter?
    4. Why does God pay for your books one day and leave most of your other prayers unanswered?
    5. Why is appealing to “mystery” when you cant answer these questions supposed to be a good enough answer?

    I could go on, but you get the point. From our standpoint, it eventually just becomes a whole lot more damn simple just to say it was a coincidence and sometimes coincidences happen. I dont think thats a wildly unreasonable conclusion! After all, if you chalk it up to coincidence **all those problems just go away.**

    With that type of mindset it’s going to be pretty hard to accept anything as coming from God unless you see the ocean parted, or see manna fall from heaven.

    Yes, thats exactly what I want to see. From an omnipotent God, why is that so much to ask? Its not any harder for him than spotting you a 20.

  • 120. Cooper  |  September 18, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Yes, thats exactly what I want to see. From an omnipotent God, why is that so much to ask? Its not any harder for him than spotting you a 20.

    Richard—

    That is hilarious. So everything is coincidence unless the sea is parted, or manna falls from heaven? I just saw on ABC news a woman in Cleveland who was rushed to the hospital having stroke after stroke and the doctors said it would be impossibe for her to function again. Her church started praying for her, and then several more churches. She literally walked out of the hospital a week or so later. The doctors said they had never seen anything like it. This was on ABC with Charles Gibson under a title questioning the veracity and usefulness of prayer.

    Now, one can look at this and say “coincidence”—-it’s still not good enough for someone set on having something “proved” directly to THEM. It was an absolute miracle—-but you see, this will not be good enough for you. You need to see the ocean part right in front of your eyes—-or you will not believe. God is not going to respond to a challenge like that. If you won’t believe he responded to the prayers for a woman like that, how are you going to beleive anything? And will you need to have this “proved” to you over and over again every time a doubt assails you?

  • 121. orDover  |  September 18, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Now, one can look at this and say “coincidence”—-it’s still not good enough for someone set on having something “proved” directly to THEM. It was an absolute miracle…

    I know I’m taking the bait her, and in order to avoid a completely pointless argument I’m not going to respond further, even after you respond to this comment, but I just have to point out that calling someone recovering from a stroke “an absolute miracle” displays nothing but misunderstanding of both medicine itself and the nature of strokes. Strokes occur when something goes wrong with bloodflow in the brain. They can be caused by bleeds, a lack of blood, or a clot. Long-term damage obviously has to do with what caused the stroke and what areas of the brain are affected, how badly they are affected, and how soon a person is able to get medical attention. Doctors tend to lean towards the worst-case-scenario prognosis so as not to raise false hopes. With something as ambiguous as a stroke, a doctor would certainly tell the family that there is likely going to be long term damage before knowing exactly the extent of the said damage. With immediate rehabilitation that stroke patients receive in hospitals their chances for recovery only go up.

    So my point is that, given the nature of strokes, it isn’t miraculous at all that someone recovered from one, even one that doctors thought was very bad. Call me when someone regenerates a limb, or heals a broken bone in two seconds, or who is declared dead and then two days later walks out of the morgue. That would be truly miraculous.

  • 122. Born Again Hindu  |  September 18, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Hi everyone,

    I am a bit curious. I know most of these topics center around the bible and Christianity. And I guess this has to do with de-conversion etc.

    I have seen miracles in other beliefs too. I have seen miracles in my life that I cannot explain and this has happened both as a Christian and as a Hindu. I have seen evil Christians as well as evil Hindus and even other religious beliefs. But these are people and it’s got nothing do do with God. I have Muslim friends who also see miracles.

    Please, I would like to appeal to you, take a look around you. Look outside the bible. Why are people trying to find God in books? Seems to me every religion gives their believer a book! It’s like joining a club. Why can’t God be found simply be seeking Him, simply by asking Him. There are no rules in searching for God. There are no rules at all. Seek Him and He will be found.

    Yes, there are people who do not believe in God, and that’s fine by me. I assure you that you will not go to hell as dictated by those who read the book and judge you.

    And yes, there are those who do believe in God simply because we seek God. There’s nothing wrong with this either. But to base our belief on a book or a set of books is simply not acceptable. Books possess the thoughts of the writer (the holder of the pen) and in no way can equal to the thoughts of God. I cannot believe that God wants us to be able to read and write before we can seek Him.

    Also understand why neuro linguistic programming is being used to control the masses. This is important. We can be controlled by others simply by reading and listening. Remove these shackles and set yourself free, be what you want to be. Don’t depend your life on miracles and books. Every day that you live is already a miracle! And your life story is a book.

    In love,
    A Hindu

  • 123. ubi dubium  |  September 18, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Born Again Hindu
    I agree with much of what you said. Life is too grand and wonderful to live it shackled to an ancient book. You may search for god, and I may search for answers through science, but we are still more alike than different. We have set ourselves free to doubt and to question and to seek. I wish you well in the journey.

  • 124. Born Again Hindu  |  September 20, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Dear ubi dubium,

    Thank you for your response. Life is too important, too valuable to waste time on squabbles that lead nowhere. Only when the mind is not restricted can true freedom be attained. You have a right to pursue your search through science or any way that you wish too. You also have the right not to believe in God. This is true freedom, the true freedom of choice that a lot of us miss.

    Hinduism permits free thought. You are not constrained to a specific thought process but you are permitted to ask and keep asking until you , yourself have found the answer that sets you free.

    The Buddha himself, questioned his own beliefs even though he was originally considered a Hindu. He challenged people to think and in all His sayings, he does not mention God at all. He is not wrong, instead He was right as He had the right to question and subsequently arrive at a conclusion.

    ubi dunium, the world needs more people like you. We live in treacherous times where fear is being exploited to the fullest. Fear gives rise to constricted thinking and this is where such thinkers prefer to convert to escape the myth of judgment and eternal damnation. Such fear does not exists in the minds of the enlightened ones. Enlightenment simply means that one is being illuminated by acquiring new wisdom or understanding.

    I wish you well in your fabulous undertaking. May all your wishes come true and may you truly find that which you seek.

    In love,
    A Hindu

  • 125. Eve's Apple  |  March 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    I have heard it said that all religions other than Christianity are like roads across a river whose bridges have been washed away. If you go down them you will meet with disaster.

    I have noticed, however, that when the highway department sets out to replace a bridge, first they put up signs telling everyone that there is a detour. Then they put up a barrier at the first crossroads. Finally they put up another barrier at the bridge itself. They make sure that no one is going to inadvertently go off that bridge.

    Well, it seems to me if other religions are “bridge out” roads, then why does God allow them to exist? It seems in this case the highway department is more responsible than God. They are taking no chances. They don’t rely on fear and word of mouth to get the word across. But then, they can be sued for negligence if someone goes off it because they did not know the road was closed. God can’t.

    I have studied various religions and revelations and it is very interesting how so many of them claim to be an updated version. Christianity replaced Judaism, in turn replaced by Islam, in turn replaced by Baha’i, and so forth, Well, if God can directly reveal an updated version to one person why can’t he directly inform all the other followers of these older versions that there is an upgrade? It shouldn’t be all that hard. And no fear would have to be involved at all.

    When someone uses fear-based arguments to try to convince me then I know that what they offer me is bankrupt. Fear is what kept me lying to myself, and to others, about my true beliefs. But then I realized it doesn’t matter. If there is a God I would rather stand before Him having lived my life honestly than go through it mouthing a lie.

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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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