What would it take to convince you that there is/is not a god?

August 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm 53 comments

Discussions between religious believers and nonbelievers frequently come to a point at which one participant asks the other(s), “What would it take to convince you that there is/is not a god?”

My current answer to that question is this:

All I’d need to believe in to believe in god would be a direct, unequivocal, simultaneous revelation of him/her/itself to all humankind.

Sacred writings are insufficient – we already have plenty of those; they are only persuasive to those who, for psychological, emotional and sociological reasons are predisposed to believe them. Moreover, many of them contradict each other and there are no standardized criteria by which humanity can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Personal testimonies are insufficient – we already have plenty of those; they are totally subjective events, which can be described to, but not experienced by, others. Therefore, differing interpretations of the events are not easily resolved.

Traditions and creeds are insufficient – we already have plenty of those; many of them continue to be useful at the current time, and others have been discarded for more effective or humane alternatives.

Miracles are insufficient – we already have plenty of purported miracles that have, eventually, been explained as natural phenomena. Even if one grants that some events have not been explained – yet – as natural phenomena, the odds are that natural explanations for these events will be discovered eventually. Moreover, even if an event could only be explained as miraculous, then that explanation would raise a plethora of questions about the being that performed the miraculous act: its identity; its character; its intentions toward humankind…. A miracle, or a series of miracles, would not lead me immediately to the answer that “God A” or “God B” or “God Z” did it. Instead, a miracle or series of miracles would lead me to ask questions rather than jump to conclusions.

Why would I require a direct, unequivocal, simultaneous revelation to all humankind? First, if the revelation came to me alone, I’d have no way to ascertain whether it was revelation or imagination or hallucination. Second, if the revelation came to me and a group of others, those who did not share the experience would have no way to ascertain for themselves the reality of our experience. It seems that the best way to avoid the pitfalls of limited revelations like these would be a broad revelation of the sort that I prefer: direct, unequivocal, simultaneous, and shared among all humankind.

Instead of secrets, mysteries, exclusivity and faith, I ask for clarity, simplicity and inclusiveness. Is that too much to ask of a supreme being?

– the chaplain

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Do YOU believe the Bible is true? Skepticism vs. Faith

53 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Quester  |  August 4, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    I’ve thought of this from time to time. I’m no longer sure that any one, single thing would convince me. What I’d need is the ability to know something about a god. Almost anything, really. With at least as much (and as little) certainty as I know anything about anyone else alive.

  • 2. Kawlinz  |  August 4, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Kodus points would be given for keeping that line continuously open for future generations, because they’d have no reason to believe our story. The reproducibility factor is nice too. Basic evidence really.

    I think that’s a good standard.

  • 3. Brian  |  August 5, 2009 at 9:20 am

    If we’re talking about what would it take for me to believe in the Christian god (because let’s face it, that’s what people really mean when they ask this question), then the answer is simple or complex depending on how you look at it: a relationship.

    I don’t want signs. I don’t want miracles. I don’t want showy glitz and knee trembling experiences. If this god truly purports to be my Abba, Daddy, Father, then he really has to BE THERE. And not just once to say, “I love you, so just remember that,” before disappearing for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t accept that kind of relationship with my real father. I certainly won’t accept it from the guy who’s supposed to love me more than anyone else in the universe.

  • 4. Joshua  |  August 5, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Hahahaha, the irony of this is that believers will say: you will get that revelation, at the rapture or death.

    Only, then it’s too late… so…

    Believe first, ask questions later.

    Does that not sum up the entirety of Christianity?

    Personally I think it’s kindof a cruel joke – if God exists – to say “Listen kiddos, pick the right religion, believe the right things – even if they look like a hoax or the placebo effect – and then when you die, you won’t go to an eternity in hell. And no complaining if you’ve never heard of the religion either, because even those who have never heard the gospel have enough knowledge to worship me. And oh, don’t go asking for any empirically demonstrable evidence, because if the evidence I have already given you is ‘not enough’, it just shows you are an arrogant individual steeped in your sins and blind to the truth. And stop claiming the evidence looks planted, or circumstantial, or what-not, because you are not going to get any better evidence. Instead, believe the slightly shady reports of 1st century middle-eastern men that I revealed myself to and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit (even though this could be confused with constipation or selection bias). What more can you ask for? Have I not given you enough to believe?”

  • 5. DSimon  |  August 5, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Second, if the revelation came to me and a group of others, those who did not share the experience would have no way to ascertain for themselves the reality of our experience.

    This would be a good reason for those who did not share the experience to believe, but why would it be a good reason for you not to believe?

    Also, why does it have to be simultaneous?

  • 6. DSimon  |  August 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Er, I meant to say, “this would be a good reason for those who did not share the experience to not believe…”

  • 7. Brandt  |  August 5, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    A direct revelation is not at all too much to ask from an all-powerful deity. That’s about the only thing that would ever convince me. It’s gotta be personal and meaningful, not a list of “cumulatively compelling” data that can’t really be confirmed.

    A God who ignores humanity’s demands for a meaningful relationship is not a God I’d choose to serve, even if he did exist.

  • 8. the chaplain  |  August 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    @ DSimon, #5:

    The reason why a limited revelation, even in a group setting that included me, would not be a good reason for me to believe is similar to the problem with a private revelation: I would not know how to ascertain whether we in the group had created an experience out of wish fulfillment or some similar psycho-social needs, or actually encountered a god.

    I’ve been in enough emotionally laden worship services to know that the emotional undercurrents that permeate those events can sweep people away. The experience feels powerful, and one believes one is encountering a being outside oneself in those situations. Moreover, the people around oneself seem to be experiencing similar phenomena, which appears to confirm one’s own experience. Unfortunately, upon examining those experiences objectively, I’ve concluded that my apparent encounters with the divine, both private and public, were simply the products of my own imagination, generated by my particular needs at the time.

  • 9. the chaplain  |  August 5, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    @ DSimon, #5, again:

    In addition to the objection I cited in #8, the fact that people of different cultural and religious backgrounds report similar experiences with their own gods – entities whose co-existence is logically impossible, as they contradict each other (heck, the beings contradict themselves, let alone other deities!) – also makes limited revelation to select groups problematic. Which group is right? We’re back to the question of standardized criteria for evaluation that I raised in the post.

    Even if it could be proven that a god that selects some and excludes (and damns) others exists, I might be compelled to believe in that being, but I couldn’t be forced to respect, admire, worship or love it. Such a god would be, to put it bluntly, a dick.

  • 10. DSimon  |  August 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Okay, suppose that you and several other people all experienced something independently and seperately, and were later able to verify the details with each other in a way that satisfied you. That is, everyone wrote down their experience thoroughly before describing it at all to anyone, and the written accounts were very detailed, very similar to each other, and clearly distinct from existing memes already going around. Basically, imagine Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but with religion instead of aliens.

    Would such a scenario, which removes the crowd mind aspect, but still is limited to only a subset of the population, be convincing to you?

    Also, I still want to know why it’s important that it be simultaneous?

  • 11. The Bacchanalian  |  August 5, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    The Hebrew people in the ancient world always seemed to get a revelation from God just whenever they truly needed one. He was always there interacting with his people, giving guidance and dispensing wisdom. But I think it would not be too hard to believe in God when there was so much evidence all around you that he was an active participant in everyone’s life. Just look at the Israelite sojourn in the Sinai desert. God was a pillar of fire set in front of the entire Israelite nation for all to see and to follow. How could you not believe in God?

    I often wondered why the ancient Hebrews and first Christians got to interact so much with God and we do not? It hardly seems fair that the ancients got the real thing and all us Moderns might get for a sign from God is a few chicken fingers that resemble Jesus. It makes believing just so much harder.

    Since God was providing revelations to his people on a regular basis I think it would be very appropriate if we would get just a few today. After all, it was 1,976 years since we got the last one. The world today is completely unrecognizable from the one in which Jesus lived in. There are just so many issues that have cropped up since 33AD that just they cry out for divine guidance. Surely we deserve a revelation from God to help solve problems that are so much more complicated than what the ancient Hebrews faced.

    That got me thinking, if we could get a new revelation from God, what could he tell us? I think for starters he could help clear up the confusion that plagues Christianity. After that he could then address some of the many complicated issues we face today. For example he might give us a revelation on the followoing issues and questions:

    What is the correct version of Christianity? Is the Bible inerrant or just allegorical? Is Predestination true? When was the Earth created? Which laws of the Old Testament still apply? Who has the most accurate version of the Bible? Is it moral to own slaves? Is is lawful to pollute? What does God think about stem cell research? Should we eat genetically modified food? Is it lawful to drive a SUV to work? What does God say about Climate Change?

    The list could go on and on but I think you get the picture. The world is burning for answers and a new revelation from God would help solve a lot of problems. And while God is at it he could do some proofreading of the Bible too. Cleaning up all the Bible’s sloppy writing and poor editing would solve half of Christianity’s problems in one shot.

  • 12. Joshua  |  August 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    “Okay, suppose that you and several other people all experienced something independently and seperately, and were later able to verify the details with each other in a way that satisfied you.”

    When I was at Bible school, I remember suddenly one afternoon getting this odd last-minute “reminder” – out of the blue – that I did not pray very much for my little sister’s salvation. So I prayed.

    A week later, I found out my sister had been saved a week before. We could not confirm the exact time, but I would not be surprised if it was the same day.

    Divine?

  • 13. Joshua  |  August 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    “Just look at the Israelite sojourn in the Sinai desert. God was a pillar of fire set in front of the entire Israelite nation for all to see and to follow. How could you not believe in God?”

    How could you not believe that men tweaked the story to make it look like God was involved?

  • 14. Joe  |  August 5, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Mentioning the pillar of fire made me remember something. What movie was that where Lot’s wife gets turned into a pillar of salt, and then some dude comes up and scrapes some of her onto his plate to salt his food? Was that History of the Word Part 2?

  • 15. The Bacchanalian  |  August 5, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Re: Joshua #5:

    Of course the story was tweaked to make it look like God was involved. In fact it never even happened! I wanted to inject a bit of sarcasm by taking Christian claims at face value. The Bible is chockablock full of so called revelation and divine intervention. If we can suspend our disbelief for a moment and assume it all happened, the ancients would not need faith since it would be easy for them to believe when they had the evidence for God all around them.

  • 16. orDover  |  August 5, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I often wondered why the ancient Hebrews and first Christians got to interact so much with God and we do not? It hardly seems fair that the ancients got the real thing and all us Moderns might get for a sign from God is a few chicken fingers that resemble Jesus. It makes believing just so much harder.

    Well, the Standard Christian Answer is that God reveals himself to us now not through bombastic miracles, but through the quire personal revelation given by the Holy Spirit. I can think off the top of my head of two big problems with this “answer”:

    1. Doesn’t the H.S. only come “into” one’s “heart” after Christ is accepted? Can the H.S. interact actively with nonbelievers to show them the way? If the H.S. can indeed interact with nonbelievers, then why does it matter if he “lives in our hearts” or not? And if he can’t, then how are we supposed to come to God in the first place? That leaves us with zero revelation.

    2. Why didn’t this “you only get the H.S.” rule go into affect right after Pentecost. Wasn’t Saul converted after that? He sure did get a miracle.

  • 17. Frreal  |  August 5, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    God should know what I would need to believe even if I don’t know what I need to believe. The fact that I don’t believe the evidence provided suggests failure of the deity either in the creation of the evidence or in the creation of the beings expected to receive the evidence. Either way its a failure which is not compatible with my definition of God.

    One of my first question the Bible questions was…. Why did God create Satan, knowing he would rebel, knowing he would later tempt his humans, knowing he would have to create a hell to put unbelievers in, etc, etc ….. The answer of course being. He didn’t.

  • 18. Frreal  |  August 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    The Bacchanalian ,
    I can’t even get to the part of the sojourn because the Egyptians remained the dominant and thriving civilization of that period despite losing all their crops, livestock, water supply, and a good portion of their male population all at once. There was no disruption in there position as a world power at the time when such an event should have wiped them out. They made no mention of the devastation or miracles or the fact that 1 million or so slaves (unlikely as well) just up and left their city through a parting of the sea despite keeping records.

    Too many how do you explain questions that start in the very first book.

  • 19. Frreal  |  August 5, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Sorry The Bacchanalian, disregard above I should learn to read better.

  • 20. The Bacchanalian  |  August 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Re: orDover #16:

    Since we are on the topic of the Holy Spirit I will add my two cents worth. If the Holy Spirit is suppose to be coming into people’s hearts to provide divine guidance and revelation then why is Christianity so hopelessly confused? If the Holy Spirit is suppose to be guiding Christians I would expect there to be some kind of consistency in its guidance and revelation to Christians. Also, should not a Christian who is supposedly being led by the Holy Spirit actually act like a better person? I see no evidence that Christians act like better people than non Christians, even if we judge them by their own standards. Based on the results over the past 2,000 years I would argue that the Holy Spirit is completely and utterly ineffective in doing what it is suppose do……which is to provide divine guidance and revelation.

  • 21. the chaplain  |  August 5, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    @ DSimon:

    Would such a scenario, which removes the crowd mind aspect, but still is limited to only a subset of the population, be convincing to you?

    No.

    Even if several people seemed to experience very similar events, I would still be concerned about how we could distinguish our experiences (for the sake of argument – let’s say we experience something like the Christian God) from similar claims by adherents of other religions.

    Lots of individuals and groups have reported experiences of their deities – and many of these reports are similar – but all of those experiences cannot have happened exactly as they’ve been perceived and reported. What gives Christians the right to say that their experiences of their deity is real, but Muslim experiences of Allah, or Hindu experiences of their gods, etc., etc., etc., are wrong? According to Christian (and Islamic) creeds, there is only one god. Therefore, some individuals and some groups must be misunderstanding what they are experiencing.

    I am not going to accept a false dichotomy – God or No God. Since there have been claims of thousands of different gods, no single god-claim is going to get a privileged position from me. There are too many potential answers to the question, “which deity?” to jump to a quick conclusion.

    Simultaneity is important because that would eliminate the possibility of one individual or group filtering and manipulating the message before it gets to the others.

  • 22. DSimon  |  August 5, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    When I was at Bible school, I remember suddenly one afternoon getting this odd last-minute “reminder” – out of the blue – that I did not pray very much for my little sister’s salvation. So I prayed.

    A week later, I found out my sister had been saved a week before. We could not confirm the exact time, but I would not be surprised if it was the same day.

    Divine?

    I’d chalk that one up to coincidence, hidden by confirmation bias (that is, ignoring all the times you prayed for somebody to be saved and it didn’t work). If every time one prayed for somebody to be saved they were saved that very same day, that would be something. However, I’d be willing to bet that the actual success rate is much lower.

    The scenario I proposed in #10 was more exacting. If both Alice and Bob experienced God and recorded a detailed description to paper independently, then each of their experiences is now a validation of the other’s, provided that:
    1. Both of their descriptions contained a great number of unambiguous details
    2. A very high percentage of the details from one description matched those in the other
    3. Neither Alice’s nor Bob’s descriptions could be based on prior knowledge they both had access to

    If all that checked out, you could safely conclude that their experiences were supernatural, or at least beyond known natural science. Tthough, it might make just as much sense to assume telepathy as it would to assume God, at least at that stage.

  • 23. DSimon  |  August 5, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    the chaplain: Alright, suppose that the subset of the population all experienced the Christian God in a way that was unambiguously not based on information they had prior access to? That is, what if their experiences were very similar, but the details were specific, numerous, and clearly not based on existing memes?

  • 24. DSimon  |  August 5, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Alright, reading over my comments again, I don’t think I’m experessing myself all that well. Let me give an example of what I think a sufficiently detailed and verifiable message from God would be like:

    If a voice saying that suddenly manifested in my mind, and the verification checked out, then I think I’d probably stop being an atheist:

    “Hello, this is the Almighty Yahweh. Bow down and worship me as the creator of the universe! If you doubt my existence, write down the following 50 digit number, then go to Central Park on September 15th at around noon. You’ll meet a bunch of other people who received the same message, including the same 50 digit number.”

    I’m not saying that that’s the minium detail level I’d accept as verifiable, or the only sort of message I’d accept, but it’s definitely one example I’d take.

  • 25. Joe  |  August 5, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    DSimon—

    But what if aliens were responsible for implanting a speaker device in yours, and 49 others brains–if you and the 49 other people came to that conclusion you sill might not believe in Yahweh. lol

  • 26. Oz  |  August 5, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    When I argue with Christians, I often tell them that there’s a very easy, Biblical way to prove that their God exists. I call it “The God that answers by fire” method. Patent Pending…

    You’ll recall the story from the Old testament where the prophet Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a showdown: he says: “Let’s build altars to our respective gods, put a sacrifice on the altar, and call upon our gods. The god that answers by fire, let him be god.”

    So I dare them to build the altar. I say I’ll call upon the ‘god’ of science, by combining fuel, air and heat. They can call upon their omnipotent god. The god that answers by fire, let him be god.

    So far, no one’s taken me up on the offer.

  • 27. Joshua  |  August 5, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Oz,

    Haha, genius!

    Christians say we “worship” the god of the universe. Well, let’s duke it out! See whose God wins!

    lol

    Visit often.

  • 28. Roy  |  August 5, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    The Hebrew people in the ancient world always seemed to get a revelation from God just whenever they truly needed one. He was always there interacting with his people, giving guidance and dispensing wisdom. But I think it would not be too hard to believe in God when there was so much evidence all around you that he was an active participant in everyone’s life. Just look at the Israelite sojourn in the Sinai desert. God was a pillar of fire set in front of the entire Israelite nation for all to see and to follow. How could you not believe in God?

    Well, seeing as how they kept making golden calves to worship, even pillars of fire were unconvincing. The story is clearly mythological.

  • 29. The Bacchanalian  |  August 5, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Re: Roy #28:

    In an age when gods where flying around everywhere it seems the Isrealites needed ever greater shows of divine power to be convinced of this or that gods superiority.

    Of course the entire story is fictional, but it sure makes for some great story telling as well as developing a unique Hebrew cultural identity.

  • 30. Roy  |  August 6, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Bacchanalian, here are my answers to your questions:

    What is the correct version of Christianity?

    There is none. The one that a particular person believes is correct for that person.

    Is the Bible inerrant or just allegorical?

    Nothing that we do is inerrant including writing religious documents. Much of it is allegorical.

    Is Predestination true?

    Of course not. Free will is true.

    When was the Earth created?

    The consensus of the scientific community is millions of years ago. Note that even though the Genesis account of it is mythological, it doesn’t say how long it was from the first “day” to the second.

    Which laws of the Old Testament still apply?

    Natural law always has and always will boil down to this: Evil is that which is destructive to human life. All statutory law is either superfluous to natural law or contradictory to it.

    Who has the most accurate version of the Bible?

    I suppose the original manuscripts would by definition be the most accurate.

    Is it moral to own slaves?

    If by slave you mean a person whose labor has been expropriated for the benefit of another, no. Sadly, slavery continues to this very day, even in the “land of the free”.

    Is is lawful to pollute?

    No. It is no more lawful for me to pollute your property than it is for me to dump garbage on it.

    What does God think about stem cell research?

    Since God does not exist in the sense that most Christians seem to believe, nothing. There is nothing wrong with stem cell research per se. Perhaps a better question might be, if the research leads to the destruction of a human embryo, what does the mother of that embryo think about it?

    Should we eat genetically modified food?

    We should eat whatever food we want to eat.

    Is it lawful to drive a SUV to work?

    Yes, why wouldn’t it be? As previously stated, it would not be right to pollute someone else’s property with it.

    What does God say about Climate Change?

    Again God doesn’t say anything about it in the traditional sense. There are probably many variables involved, but to think that it is all caused by human action is absurd. The sun has much bearing on it.

  • 31. Roy  |  August 6, 2009 at 12:44 am

    With regard to inerrency, I should revise my answer to say that very little if anything we do beyond the trivial is inerrant . That includes my previous answer.

  • 32. Roy  |  August 6, 2009 at 12:46 am

    Oops…inerrancy. ;-)

  • 33. the chaplain  |  August 6, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Roy – you’re obviously not inerrant :)

  • 34. The Bacchanalian  |  August 6, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Re Roy #30:

    It seems I injected a bit too much sarcasm into my questions to make my intent clear. So I will try again. Firstly, I would be the first to agree with you that there is no Christian God, Christianity is a construct of men. Secondly, my questions were directed to believers and I was presupposing that their God existed. There is a whole host of problems that exist within Christianity today, some of which I outlined in my questions. Life would be so clearer for all Christians if God would step in and sort out all these issues for them (like he supposedly did in the old’n days). But of course he does not reveal himself because he does not exist. The state of utter confusion within Christian belief and thought is just another piece of evidence to show that the whole belief system is pure bunk.

  • 35. Roy  |  August 6, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I understand, Bacchanalian, that your questions were rhetorical ones for Christians who go to the Bible for answers. I was demonstrating that if Christians would get their noses out of their Bibles and start using what is between their ears, they could get answers to practically any question they could imagine. Indeed, “God” gave us rational thought so that we can step in and sort out any issue for ourselves. I myself am a free-thinking Christian hoping that my contribution to these discussions will help some of my close-minded bretheren. I do not subscribe to the notion that Christianity and atheism are polar opposites and mutually exclusive, but a lack of agreement on definitions.

  • 36. Roy  |  August 6, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    So let me take a stab at the question posed in the post:

    “What would it take to convince you that there is/is not a god?”

    First it would take our agreeing on what we are taking about when we use the term “god”. Short of such a definition we won’t be convincing each other of anything useful.

    After a mutually satisfactory agreement is reached, THEN we can begin to discuss it. We might find out that we actually agree and don’t need to convince one another of anything. If not, then at least we can discuss it intelligently armed with a definition we are both clear on.

    A huge part of the problem is that the “god” most people imply is a terribly muddled, incomprehensible, self-contradictory concept.

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  August 6, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    This one’s easy. I’d just need someone to actually come along with a deity who actually DOES WHAT HE/SHE/IT CLAIMS.

    So, does your deity promise to heal diseases, and make sure his followers won’t starve? Good. let’s see that happen. I’ll follow gladly.

  • 38. Oz  |  August 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks, Joshua.

    I do visit, but I guess not often as I should.

    I took a look at your blog. You’re right, it’s not about arguments. I just think that for some of us, truth (or at least being less wrong) is valued above all else.

    I’ve also had spiritual experiences too. Particularly ‘demonic oppression.’ Boy, do I have stories to tell!

    I deconverted in early February. I come from a religious family-my father’s a pastor, as well as both my siblings.

    Oz

  • 39. Born again Skeptic  |  August 6, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    There doesn’t need to be a simultaneous or global revelation, that might be impossible or otherwise inefficient. All you really need is evidence of a god that’s verifiable and reproducible experimentally.

  • 40. Joe  |  August 6, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Born Again—-

    But how could a “god” be reproducible experimentally? I mean if God is God, how could He be reproduced? Am I misunderstanding you? Went to the link, but not sure I understand what you are saying.

  • 41. Roy  |  August 6, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I think it’s satire, Joe.

  • 42. Joe  |  August 6, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Oops. Satire huh? That explains it. :>)

  • 43. Joshua  |  August 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    “But how could a “god” be reproducible experimentally?”

    Haha, I understand the satire Roy, but Joe, you actually an extremely good point. If God is “completely other”, there would be no way to reproduce him experimentally, I completely agree, because all the tools at our disposal would have no direct connection to this divine being.

    So, here’s the funk I caught myself in and could not resolve:

    As soon as someone defines God in such a way that the definition itself can be shown to be logically impossible, logically invalid, or that predicts a certain thing about God’s behavior, we can then validate or invalidate the existence of the being by this definition. Here is the kicker: as soon as we invalidate a Being by a particular definition, is it a valid exercise to simple tweak the definition to keep It in existence?

    As I looked through all the definitions of God provided by Christianity, I realized all of them (that I saw) were either post hoc, logically invalid, circular in reasoning, or deliberately defined in such a way as to be unfalsifiable.

    I discovered a similar thing with inerrancy. Inerrancy was deliberately defined by everyone I knew to be unfalsifiable and then because no errors could be found the Bible was declared to be inerrant. This form of circular reasoning just eventually made my head almost explode.

    The only way I could think of to define God so that He would be “wholly other” and omnipotent was to say that God did not conform to the laws of logic. But a God who does not conform to logic cannot be understood and theology becomes a completely useless exercise.

    In other words, if someone wants to believe in God, and wants their God to be omnipotent, all they have to do is define God in such a way that He is unfalsifiable. They have then defined into existence an omnipotent deity. The deity cannot be “attacked” because by definition the deity cannot be attacked.

    The royal kicker recently for me was to realize that all I needed to do was claim that I believed in the God who invented Yahweh, who was completely wholly other, but invented Yahweh as a way to control the human race. Boom, I invented a deity who was stronger than Yahweh. Does this mean my deity exists?

    Poof. And then man made God, ex nihilo.

    Oz –

    Have you shared your story on this site yet? I’m sure we would all love to hear it. I de-converted in August of last year and the demonic oppression was a huge part of my leaving. I would love to hear your story.

  • 44. The Chaplain  |  August 8, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    First of all, let me apologize for having the same nom de plume as you: The Chaplain. I swear I didn’t know you existed when I chose it for my blog!

    Anyway, I received the “what evidence will you accept question” from a Christian friend of mine and this was my response:

    “I will accept evidence that derives from the scientific method that has, in just a few hundred years, made discoveries that humans had not been able to make any progress on for tens of thousands of years. That automatically makes it a heuristic to stand in awe of. It has done no less than discover the things that have led to the creation of the technologies (industrial, medical and otherwise) that have led to the modern world. Other forms of evidence I will accept are arguments from sign, induction, cause, deduction, analogy, definition and statistics, as long as those arguments are substantiated enough to avoid being labeled fallacies. I should also mention what I will not accept: personal, anecdotal evidence. This is very reasonable, since personal, anecdotal evidence exists for all beliefs in the supernatural. If we were to accept this type of evidence, we would have to say that all beliefs in the supernatural are proven.

    You can see the full response here: Angry Conversations with a Childhood Friend & Calvinist: Part VI

  • 45. Pete  |  August 14, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    I didn’t read any of the comments, don’t have time now.

    I would except a miracle as long as I actually saw it. If I actually saw the red sea parting, shazaaam! As is, I’m pretty sure that story is made up. So its doing little in way of evidence.

  • 46. ZXtheD  |  August 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    I don’t know how anyone can convince me that there is no god. I’ve gone into meditation any experienced a peace that cannot be experienced through natural phenomena. I’ve said this once before on this site; no one can prove to you god exists but yourself, and no one can prove to me god exists but me. Experience is key to everything, and to say that one’s experieces(or miracles) are nothing but natural phenomena is a bit arrogant and condescending, since any of you haven’t had any of the experiences you work so hard to disprove.

  • 47. Joshua  |  August 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    I’ve gone into meditation any experienced a peace that cannot be experienced through natural phenomena.

    What about meditation is not natural?

  • 48. anti_supernaturalist  |  August 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    There are no religious phenomena, only religious interpretations of phenomena.

    — with apologies to Nietzsche (BG&E section 108)

    the anti_supernaturalist

  • 49. Rachel  |  September 3, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    All I’d need to believe in to believe in god would be a direct, unequivocal, simultaneous revelation of him/her/itself to all humankind.

    I know this is going to cause a storm of comments, but that direct revelation is the Bible. That is how God speaks today. And I already know most here disagree with that and think it is nothing more than a book of mythology. But for the Christian, it defines our lives.

    orDover:
    1. Doesn’t the H.S. only come “into” one’s “heart” after Christ is accepted? Can the H.S. interact actively with nonbelievers to show them the way? If the H.S. can indeed interact with nonbelievers, then why does it matter if he “lives in our hearts” or not? And if he can’t, then how are we supposed to come to God in the first place? That leaves us with zero revelation.
    2. Why didn’t this “you only get the H.S.” rule go into affect right after Pentecost. Wasn’t Saul converted after that? He sure did get a miracle.

    1. Yes, the H.S. enters one’s heart only after the heart has been re-created through repentance and accepting Christ as Savior. Yes, the H.S. is what draws the non-believer to God.
    2. Saul’s conversion was different because that’s how God decided to do it. He doesn’t interact the same with everyone He calls, just like one doesn’t interact with one’s children the same way.

    By accepting Christ and being a “new” creation, you are transformed from the inside out, no longer being who you were before, i.e. dying to self and taking on the righteousness of Christ. Because Christ took on the full wrath of God in our place, his perfect life allows us to be called children of God because God no longer sees us, but Christ in us. And therefore, we are no longer his enemies but sons and daughters, heirs to an inheritance.

    Anyway, I know you already know all of this but just for clarification purposes, that is how I, a Christian, would answer your questions.

  • 50. LeoPardus  |  September 3, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    that direct revelation is the Bible.

    That is one horrendously poor revelation then. Chock full of blatant contradictions. Written by primitive people. Completely open to any degree of (mis)interpretation.
    Oh and don’t forget that it wasn’t’ even around for the first 100 years or more of the church and then no one knew which books belong between the covers even after that.
    What a mess! Honestly I could do better than that, and I’m not even claiming any ‘omni’ qualities.

  • 51. LeoPardus  |  September 3, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    By accepting Christ and being a “new” creation, you are transformed from the inside out, no longer being who you were before, i.e. dying to self and taking on the righteousness of Christ

    And this is evidenced by the overwhelming majority of “christians” remaining unchanged and often becoming even bigger assholes than they were without the faith.
    Sorry, but if changed lives are supposed to be evidence for the faith, unchanged lives (or lives changed for the worse) have to constitute evidence against the faith. You can’t have it one way and not the other.

  • 52. Eupraxsophy  |  September 7, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I use to be a Christian, but I started to realize that I was thinking with a closed mind. Is this what it means to be a Christian? To be doubtful to others who might have a different view or belief?
    When I was a Christian I found that I was almost always second guessing myself. Was I pleasing God? Do I have enough faith?
    Am I even forgiven? I have never been in so much doubt as I was being a Christian.

    But then I remembered a verse in the Bible about when Jesus
    said; “The wise man builds his house upon the rock, but the
    fool builds his house upon the sand”. In other words the
    wise man base’s his beliefs on truth and the fool bases his truths
    on beliefs. Keeping that in mind I soon realized that my problem
    was that I was being doubtful as opposed to being objective.
    With an open mind I started to see contradictions in the bible and
    christian faith. An example would be that the bible starts out as
    saying Old Testiment, and yet the very first verse, in the very
    first chapter, in the very first book of the bible it says; ” In the
    beginning God created Heaven and Earth”, but I wonder as to who it was that witnessed this event so they could give their
    testimony. Is this basing one’s beliefs on truth, or is it basing
    one’s truth on belief?

    Is there any witness that can be subject to cross examination
    that has witnessed any of the events mentioned in the bible?
    No! Does the bible have any substanciated proof? No! Does any
    theist have any kind of proof other than circumstantial evidence?
    No!

    Mark Twain said it best; “The best cure for Christianity is to read
    the Bible”.

    It is better to have questions that can not be answered, than to
    have answers that can not be questioned.

    I have chosen to be agnostic and I can respect the choices that
    others make as long as they respect mine.

    From the variety of life springs forth the fountain of diversity
    which only makes us more distigushed and less insignificant.

  • 53. Mystery Porcupine  |  September 16, 2009 at 3:38 am

    After years of believing in Jesus-God, I am an agnostic at this point…I may even be an atheist. But if I were to see God, the God of everything, I am pretty sure I would bow down. I hope that if he exists he will give me that chance before he sends me to hell. Because boy I loved him, or who I thought he was, and I would love to see him. I am assuming of course that things would be made right and that there would be some good explanation for all of these things that don’t make sense, and that he wouldn’t mind sharing that with me. If he turned out to be a god who enjoys watching humans suffer or just doesn’t mind…well I guess hanging out with him in the afterlife would be hell.

    Of course my entire comment is about the afterlife because I have given up on seeing him here. It doesn’t seem likely.

    Someone on this site mentioned that “highs” in church, experiences of the Holy Spirit, were nothing more than hormones. Something clicked when I read that – no wonder I was so confused in high school. Dating boys – going to church – dating boys from church. That feeling of God was around an awful lot. I thought it was the Holy Spirit leading me, but it was my hormones all along. Pesky devils!

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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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