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Yet Another Conference …

Can Christianity stand to the atheists' super powers?I’m off to the Freethought Alliance Conference in Irvine, CA this weekend, so I’ll be a little slow with blog posts for a few days.

This should be an interesting event, with a Who’s Who of atheist speakers—Michael Shermer, Robert Price, Phil Zuckerman, Aron Ra, Richard Carrier, Brian Dunning, Mr. Deity, Dan Barker, Eddie Tabash, and others.  I’d like to put copies of my book into the hands of some of these speakers.  I’m sure that most won’t read it, but I want to add to my collection of positive reviews and hope that this increases the chance that someone will open doors for the book.

As an aside, has anyone noticed that there are more atheist/freethought conferences lately?  I’m fairly new to this game—the first conference that I attended in this category was The Amazing Meeting 2 in 2004.  But this could simply be my being more aware of them.  Let me know if you sense that conferences have changed in the last decade, either on the freethought side or the Christian side.

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • Bob Calvan

    If Eddie Tabash and Dan Barker are your heavy hitters save your money.
    Listen to Dr. Greg Bahnsen and Eddie Tabash debate..And Doug Wilson and Dan Barker bebate.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Not helpful–too vague.

      What would be helpful is your summary of specific arguments (compelling pro-Christian arguments, for example, or how atheist arguments fail).

      • Orbital Teapot

        To Bob S,

        Here is a compelling argument:

        Atheists think they are rational, and that they follow the evidence, but they believe in wind without seeing it, yet they won’t believe in God because they cannot see him!!!!!!

        • Bob Seidensticker

          It’s not that people can’t see God but that there is no evidence for God. I’m sure you could make a compelling evidence-based argument that air (or wind) exists.

          Make an equally compelling argument for God, and I’ll read it with interest.

  • Bob Calvan

    There is plenty of evidence for God. But the atheist reads the evidence through his presuppositions, ( as well as the Theist does) and denies this evidence and says evolution did it. Which takes more blind faith than the Christian has. As the atheist must hold to an impossible blind faith. That something came from nothing, order came from disorder, life came from nonlife. Hey Bob wan’t to buy a bridge I have that goes nowhere?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      There is plenty of evidence for God.

      Good evidence? Evidence that, if it came from another religion that you’d consider that religion plausible as well as Christianity?

      But the atheist reads the evidence through his presuppositions, ( as well as the Theist does) and denies this evidence and says evolution did it.

      Evolution did everything? Wow–it’s more powerful than I thought!

      Which takes more blind faith than the Christian has.

      No blind faith. In fact, no faith of any sort. I trust in what science tells us because it has done such an impressive job in the past.

      That something came from nothing

      Does science claim this? I’ve never seen this as the scientific consensus.

      life came from nonlife

      I’m not sure what this one is here for. You’re right that science doesn’t have an explanation for abiogenesis. Maybe it’ll never find one. Maybe it’ll be discarded and replaced with something else. But your argument is nothing more profound than “science doesn’t yet explain abiogenesis so God exists.” Or, if that’s not your argument, correct me.

      Hey Bob wan’t to buy a bridge I have that goes nowhere?

      You’re the one who believes that Yahweh is actually a nice guy (despite what the OT says), that he created everything, that Jesus resurrected, and all that, and you’re saying that I’m gullible??

  • Bob Calvan

    Your problem is the same as your buddy Eddie Tabash. You hate this God you do not believe in. You are mad that God is just, and you are accountable to Him. And you know this in your heart and can not excape this truth.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I don’t hate Yahweh like I don’t hate Zeus. I do hate much of what Christianity does within society, however.

      You are mad that God is just

      Are you not listening? I’m mad because the God of the OT is insanely unjust and Christians make excuses for him. They value their childish beliefs more than reality and happily sacrifice their humanity for an imagined sense of security.

  • Orbital Teapot

    To Bob S,

    Ok, here is a note for you: God is not an object to be conquered with syllogisms or with astrophysics or molecular biology… God is a personal reality who would like to become your friend, provided you make a room for him in your life. It’s pointless to try to “prove” God as if God were a mathematical theorem. God is like a person, not like a thing we can grasp. The proper attitude toward persons is love and justice.

    Your problem is that you have turned God into a dry philosophical problem (an abstract net of concepts) rather than acknowledging the personhood of God. We don’t know that God loves us, just as a husband does not know that his wife loves him.

    You may object that the husband at least knows that his wife EXISTS, but the thing is that many people say that they have experienced God in their life. The prophets and the mystics of the past had an especially acute perception of the presence of God and they handed down to us accounts of their experiences of God. Sure, those are human accounts, with many flaws and limits, but they point to a higher reality.

    So you have the choice. You may believe that everyone who says they have experienced God is deceived or deceiving you. Which requires some faith of you. Or you may believe that there is some truth in some prophetic and mystical accounts, and some truth in the experiences of ordinary people who believe. Which requires some faith as well.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      It’s pointless to try to “prove” God as if God were a mathematical theorem.

      I wouldn’t try to prove your existence as if you were a theorem, so I see your point. Still, finding strong evidence that you exist is pretty easy.

      God is like a person, not like a thing we can grasp.

      No, God is not at all like a person. The very existence of a person is rarely discussed since it’s rarely in doubt. With God, that’s the fundamental question.

      The proper attitude toward persons is love and justice.

      Neither of which I see in Yahweh.

      Your problem is that you have turned God into a dry philosophical problem (an abstract net of concepts) rather than acknowledging the personhood of God.

      I think that my “problem” is instead that I insist that God actually act like a person and, y’know, exist. I’m flexible on how we show this (maybe we show that God exists in slightly different ways) but I gotta have some sort of serious evidence.

      Of all the people in my life, existence is never the issue. Of all the mythological beings in my life, existence is always the issue. Sure makes God look like yet another mythological being.

      You may object that the husband at least knows that his wife EXISTS …

      :)

      … but the thing is that many people say that they have experienced God in their life.

      And we have many people making lots of supernatural claims (seen ghosts, ESP, visitations by other gods or demons, etc.) that we’re pretty comfortable labeling as nonsense. Why should God claims be any different?

      The prophets and the mystics of the past had an especially acute perception of the presence of God

      What?? This is begging the question, is it not?? You read of debunkings done by skeptical researchers; why imagine that just because these claims are older that they are more reliable? Older means less reliable!

      You may believe that everyone who says they have experienced God is deceived or deceiving you.

      I don’t, obviously. I simply demand evidence. And it ain’t there.

      Your dividing things up into two camps, each of which requires faith, ignores the obvious third category: simply avoid believing in anything on faith.

      If there is strong evidence, that supports trust. If there isn’t, there’s no justification for trust. Easy.

  • Orbital Teapot

    To Bob S,

    The problem, as believers have stressed many times, is that if God were obvious, in the same way YOU are obvious to me, his sheer presence would prevent you being free. You would feel overwhelmed by his presence. You would feel compelled to obey him out of fear or out of awe. There would be no room for choice, for the possibility of rejecting his friendship. But God does not want slaves, he wants to be loved by free people. So God is a person, but a special person. He cannot be equated with a human being, even one whose existence is dubious.

    Besides, I don’t believe in YHWH, so I can agree with you that he is hardly loving or just. Still, there is an evolution in the Old Testament. The God presented by the later prophets is gentler and more reasonable than the God of the Torah.

    It was not my will to claim that the prophets of the old days are better than we are. It’s possible that a new prophet arises today, who would be equal to older prophets, but it’s hard to tell, given the sheer mass of false prophets haunting today’s world (in cults, for instance).

    • Bob Seidensticker

      The problem, as believers have stressed many times, is that if God were obvious, in the same way YOU are obvious to me, his sheer presence would prevent you being free.

      Yes, believers have stressed this many times, and it still fails to convince. This “God doesn’t want slaves so therefore God must remain hidden” argument is exactly the kind of argument we would expect if there were no God at all and his disciples were simply making excuses to hide the fact.

      If God made his presence know, I would feel compelled to believe he exists. No one objects to this kind of “coercion.” I believe you exist. If there were any great issue in the balance, I could take steps to verify your existence more fully (find a way to meet you in person, for example). And yet no one would say that my free will has been compromised simply because you’ve forced your existence into my consciousness.

      You would feel overwhelmed by his presence. You would feel compelled to obey him out of fear or out of awe.

      Could be, but this has nothing to do with the Problem of Divine Hiddenness. Christians who are serious believers might similarly feel compelled to obey him out of fear or awe. Do we need to worry about how their free will has been trodden on?

      There would be no room for choice, for the possibility of rejecting his friendship.

      And yet this is how he is portrayed by Christians–they don’t seem to see any problem. They say, “God exists and he’s fabulous, and he wants to live with you forever in heaven … but if you cross him, you will have an eternity of torment to lament your decision.” Sounds like coercion to me.

      He cannot be equated with a human being, even one whose existence is dubious.

      I tend to agree. Christians often say that God is like a parent or a judge, but then they excuse his incomprehensible behavior by saying that we can’t understand him.

      Still, there is an evolution in the Old Testament.

      Yet more evidence that he’s simply made up.

      It was not my will to claim that the prophets of the old days are better than we are.

      Why imagine that there have ever been any prophets? Where’s the evidence for this remarkable claim?

  • Orbital Teapot

    To Bob S,

    Of course that if God did not exist, people who believed in him would come up with cheap excuses. But so what? You seem to reason thusly:

    If God does not exist, people would invent excuses to explain his absence.
    People invent just such excuses.
    Therefore God does not exist.

    Such a reasoning is not valid. The problem is that the world is ambiguous, more than you are ready to admit. God may not exist, but he may exist. Of course the nature of the universe means that some conceptions of God are untenable. But some others are tenable, with some faith.

    It takes faith for the atheist to reject any religious claim made in history. Of course his or her rejection is not groundless, so it is not blind faith. But the data makes it impossible to claim with perfect confidence that everything is a lie.

    When someone reports something, the normal reaction is to believe that one, unless you have good ground to doubt one’s word. When prophets and mystics, and to some extent many ordinary believers, report an experience of a higher being, whatever they call it, the normal reaction may be to take them seriously. Perhaps not to believe, but to at least be modest in your skepticism.

    I know that atheists are impressed with religious disagreements (see the other thread with Bob Calvin, Rick and Retro), but pluralist theology (John Hick) can account for it.

    You may compare religious disagreements with the sensory system of different species. If you were a whale, a crow, a bat or a fish, you would experience the world very differently from now. But people, whales, crows, bats and fish at least AGREE that there is a world. What I am getting at is that people experience God with the limits that are in their minds and and in their cultures.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      If God does not exist, people would invent excuses to explain his absence.
      People invent just such excuses.
      Therefore God does not exist.

      And you must know that this isn’t my claim.

      I have no proofs; I simply follow the evidence where it leads.

      The god claims that we see look just like what they be if there were no god. Conclusion: that there is no god explains the evidence best.

      (There’s more than this, of course; this is abbreviated.)

      Such a reasoning is not valid.

      Obviously.

      God may not exist, but he may exist.

      Obviously.

      But some others are tenable, with some faith.

      What’s the point of faith? Why accept a conclusion that, without faith, you wouldn’t?

      It takes faith for the atheist to reject any religious claim made in history.

      I wouldn’t use the word “faith” here. Perhaps an example will clarify your point.

      When prophets and mystics, and to some extent many ordinary believers, report an experience of a higher being, whatever they call it, the normal reaction may be to take them seriously.

      This isn’t my normal reaction. When someone says, “I was abducted by a UFO last night!!” I tend to not take that person seriously because the collection of false UFO claims is vast and the collection of validated claims is nonexistent. Same for supernatural claims.

      What I am getting at is that people experience God with the limits that are in their minds and and in their cultures.

      But we can’t go into the god discussion with a presupposition that God exists.

  • Orbital Teapot

    To Bob S,

    The point of faith is that it is a gift of a God who wants to be in your life as your friend (I own that I don’t like that talk of “Lord” and “Savior”). Not, obviously, like a human friend you can see and touch. But as some presence who empowers you and gives you meaning and purpose, and whom you can love. Maybe you never had the feeling that God may be part of your life. It seems that for you God is a mere principle of being or perhaps a lawgiver with threats of tortures, not a personal reality who wishes to share your life…

    Then it is not surprising that for you God is in the same bag as alien abductions. But the fact is that the “religious consensus” (if we may call that the shared views of prophets and mystics) don’t take alien abductions any more seriously than the scientific consensus. There are indeed swindlers in religion. But it takes a leap of faith to claim that everyone in religious history has been deceiving you or is mistaken. Creationists like to brood over scientific frauds and scientific misdemeanor, but it no more proves that science is worthless. Likewise, we all know dishonest politicians, but it takes a leap of faith to claim that whoever does politics is crooked.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      The point of faith is that it is a gift of a God who wants to be in your life as your friend

      That’s a claim that can be explored once we establish that God isn’t fiction. We’re not there yet.

      Until we’ve established that God exists, we’re talking theology, not evidence.

      But it takes a leap of faith to claim that everyone in religious history has been deceiving you or is mistaken.

      Where’s the faith? I’m not certain that all religious people are lying or mistaken. But that’s certainly where the evidence points. This isn’t faith; it’s trust. It’s belief in accord with the evidence.

      Creationists like to brood over scientific frauds and scientific misdemeanor, but it no more proves that science is worthless.

      Just because one claim in support of alchemy is wrong doesn’t mean that every claim is wrong.

      Nevertheless, they are.

      (BTW, how would you characterize yourself? Liberal Christian?)

  • Orbital Teapot

    Hi Bob S,

    It seems that you want to “conquer” the truth of God with the weapons of syllogisms, as a king conquers a castle with his army. But God is not like that. It would be better to be like the king who looks forward to hearing news from a faraway kingdom, news brought by a messenger whom the king does not control.

    It’s true that you met with lots of believers, in your readings, on the net or in real life. But there is no guarantee that God spoke to you through them. Maybe God has not yet called you…

    I am a follower of the “Religion of Love” the founder of which is my mother. ;)

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I don’t presuppose that God doesn’t exist. I’m happy to listen to arguments that he does. But I certainly won’t go into the discussion assuming that God exists.

      Looks like you do.

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